Address Accepting the Democratic Presidential Nomination in Clarksburg, West Virginia
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee:
You will understand, with little explanation on my part, the feelings which have led me to fix our meeting at this spot in the hills of West Virginia. These are the hills that cradled me and to which as boy and man I lifted up my eyes for help. In this soil rest four generations of my people--artisans, tradesmen, farmers and a sprinkling of the professions, laborers all—who played in simple fashion their appointed parts in the life of this community. Among them now lie those who gave me lire, and to whose high precept and example I owe all that I have ever been and all that I can hope to be.
These witnesses who surround us are the companions of my youth and manhood. With them most of my days have been spent, and when circumstances have called me elsewhere they have followed me with a regard and affection that has laid on me a debt of gratitude greater than 1 can repay. Twenty-five years ago they first called me to their service as their representative in the Legislature of this State, and since that day, in 1 public Office pr in private life, 1 have fought with them unceasingly the battle for democratic ideals and democratic principles.
Of their own free will and motion they presented my name to the Democratic Convention as one deserving its consideration. Better than all others, they will know whether what I shall say to you today is in keeping with the convictions I have expressed and the action 1 have taken in the past, and, more than any others, they will resent anything I may say or do that shows their confidence misplaced. It is in the presence of these hills, these graves, these witnesses, that I wish to hear your message and give you my reply.
You come to give me official notice that I have been chosen by the Democratic Party as its nominee for the highest office in the gift of the American people. You invite me to take the reins of leadership and marshal its hosts for the coming campaign. No weightier commission could be laid on any man. He must be vain indeed who. does not feel his own unaided strength inadequate to such a task, and he must be ambitious beyond reason whom thought of fame or honor tempts to undertake it without the fullest sympathy with his party and its aims.
I reflect, however, that you are the representatives of millions of Americans who are dissatisfied with existing conditions, who long for the day when America will set her face to the front again 2nd who are ready to follow whenever the forward march begins. And I have read your platform I and its declarations of party principle and find them such as I can heartily approve. For these things I thank God, and take courage.
I take note, Mr. Chairman, in passing, of what you were good enough to say concerning my past career and conduct as a lawyer. I have no apology to offer for either. The answer to any criticism on that score must come not only from those who like yourself have won the highest distinction at the bar, but also from the more than one hundred thousand other honest and patriotic men and women who make up the legal profession in this country.
They know and they will gladly join you in testifying that the upright lawyer sells his services, but never his soul. A word of personal history in this connection, however, may not be out of place.
When I was advised of the purpose of President Wilson to appoint me to the high office of Solicitor General, my first act was to surrender all private employment and to sever my connection with the law firm of which I was then a member and of which my revered father was the head.
From that day until my duties as Ambassador to Great Britain were ended, eight years later, I had no other client or employer than the Government and the people of the United States. Whether I served them well or faithfully, not I but others must say.
As soon as the convention, over which you so ably presided, had decided in my behalf, I realized that I was called upon to repeat my former action. Within the weeks therefore, I signified to all my clients that I could no longer serve them and severed my connection with the honorable gentlemen who were my professional partners.
I have no clients today but the Democratic Party and, if they will it so, the people of the United States.
Many and grave are the problems of the hour, and all the resources of patriotism and statesmanship at our command will be taxed in their solution. The allied forces of greed and dishonesty, of self-seeking and partisanship, of prejudice and ignorance, threaten today as they have rarely done before the perpetuity of our national ideals, traditions and institutions. Men are looking askance at one another; are mistrusting one another; are doubting each the other's good-will and honesty of purpose.
The solidarity of the great war has given way to a chaos of blocs and sections and classes and interests, each striving for its own advantage, careless of the welfare of the whole. Government itself, to which the humblest citizen has the right to turn with confident reliance in its evenhanded justice, has fallen under the prevalent distrust. There is abroad in the land a feeling too general to be ignored, too deep-seated for any trifling, that men in office can no longer be trusted to keep faith with those who sent them there, and that the powers of Government are being exercised in the pursuit of personal gain instead of the common service.
Out of this, and because of it, there has developed an alarming tendency to take the administration of the law out of the hands of constituted officials and to execute its processes through individuals or through organized societies, by methods little different from those of private revenge. A situation so threatening to the very foundations of the social order demands boldness in facing the causes which have brought it about, and tireless exertion in the effort to remove them.
To bring the Government back to the people is and always has been the doctrine of Democracy. Today, in addition, it is the supreme need of the hour to bring back to the people confidence in their Government.
The search for the causes of this state of affairs leads us at once to the history of the last four years. In 1920 we passed through a political campaign in which materialism was preached as a creed and selfishness as a national duty. All the forces of discontent were marshalled and the embers of every smoldering hate were fanned into burning flame. We have eaten of the fruit of the tree that was planted and it has been bitter in the mouths of even the most indifferent.
I speak with restraint when I say that it has brought forth corruption in high places; favoritism in legislation; division and discord in party councils; impotence in Government and a hot struggle for profit and advantage which has bewildered us at home and humiliated us abroad. For all these things the party now in power cannot escape the responsibility that is its due. No repentance at the eleventh hour and no promise of reform can cancel half a line of the indisputable facts.
The time demands plain speaking. It is not a welcome task to recount the multiplied scandals of these melancholy years: a Senator of the United States convicted of corrupt practice in the purchase of his Senatorial seat; a Secretary of the Interior in return for bribes granting away the naval oil reserves so necessary to the security of the country; a Secretary of the Navy ignorant of the spoliation in progress, if not indifferent to it; an Attorney General admitting bribe-takers to the Department of Justice, making them his boon companions and utilizing the agencies of the law for purposes of private and political vengeance; a Chief of the Veterans' Bureau stealing and helping others to steal the millions in money and supplies provided for the relief of those defenders of the nation most entitled to the nation's gratitude and care. Such crimes are too gross to be forgotten or forgiven.
I do not believe that the millions, of sincere and patriotic men and women who have composed the rank and file of the Republican Party are more ready to condone these and similar offenses or to pardon the offenders than those of other political faiths. Indeed, their indignation has perhaps a sharper edge, for it is coupled with the chagrin that must follow from the knowledge that under authority issued in their name corrupt men have crept to places of power and then betrayed the trust that placed them there.
There are circumstances, however, which spread responsibility for the effect of these things upon the public confidence beyond the list of the criminals themselves. There is, first, the fact that the revelation of these crimes was not the result of any action taken by the Executive. No burning indignation there put in train the forces of investigation and of punishment. The disclosures came only as the result of the painstaking effort of faithful public servants in the legislative branch of the Government who could not close their eyes even when others chose to slumber.
Again, when discovery was threatened, instead of aid and assistance from the Executive branch there were hurried efforts to suppress testimony, to discourage witnesses, to spy upon investigators, and finally, by trumped-up indictment, to frighten and deter them from the pursuit. The spying on Senators and Congressmen; the hasty interchange of telegrams in department code; the refusal of those accused to come forward, under oath, to purge themselves—all these things serve to blacken a page that was already dark enough.
Different, perhaps, in moral quality, but hardly less painful to the country, has been the attitude of some of those in high places whose effort it has been to weaken the effect of these exposures by crying out not against the guilty, but against those who exposed them.
What shall we say when a statement comes from one who of all men should have been most deeply stirred that the wonder is not that so many have fallen but that so few have been shown untrue? With what patience shall we greet the libelous suggestion that, after all, these are but incidents provoked by the demoralization attendant upon the great war?
Is memory, then, so short that we no longer recall the heroic days of 1917 and 1918, when America rose to heights of moral grandeur unsurpassed, when every meeting place was a temple and every house a shrine? Shall we forget that no taint of dishonesty or corruption has ever attached to any man who held public office during that great struggle or to any man who continued to hold office under the Federal Government until March 4. 1921?
Shell shock was late, Indeed, in arriving if it is to be put forward now as the excuse for these gross misdeeds.
I charge the Republican Party with this corruption in office. I charge it also with favoritism in legislation. I do more; I charge it with that grossest form of favoritism which gives to him who hath and takes away from him who hath not. To pervert high office to personal gain is an offense detested by all honest men, but to use the power of legislation purposely to enrich one man or set of men at the expense of others is robbery on a larger scale, though done under the forms of law.
In the passage of the Fordney-McCumber tariff act, imposing the highest rates and duties in the tariff history of the nation, there was an unblushing return to the evil days of rewarding party support and political contributions with legislative favors.
In the language of one of the advocates of that measure: "If we take care of the producers the consumers can take care of themselves." For every dollar that this statute has drawn into the Treasury of the United States it has diverted five from the pocket of the consumer into the pockets of the favored few.
Although the Republican platform adopted at Cleveland holds out to the taxpayer the elusive promise of relief to those who are "daily paying their taxes through their living expenses," as indeed they are, it nowhere offers any promise of a reduction in tariff duties, but lauds the existing bill as the summit of human wisdom.
Is there not something of humor as well as honesty lacking in those who in one and the same breath can promise a reduction of the cost of living and praise a statute which raises, the price of the elemental necessaries of life; who can .demand, as they should, the payment of our foreign debts but refuse to accept from the debtor the goods in which alone payment can be made; who clamor for an American merchant marine but deny ft the cargoes necessary for its existence?
When a reduction in the burden of income taxes could no longer be denied, the country was presented with the Mellon bill, offered by the , Administration to the people as the last word on that subject. When it met the test of impartial analysis, here, too, there appeared the motive to favor the few possessors of swollen incomes beyond the many of moderate means.
Under Democratic initiative and Democratic guidance a bill was passed in its stead, so changing the weight and emphasis of the proposed reduction as to give the greater relief to those whose tax payments pressed upon their» scale of living. Although the Executive approval this bill received was grudging and reluctant, not even the submissive convention at Cleveland dared to suggest that the Mellon bill be revived and adopted as a substitute.
We assert in our platform that the Republican Party "believes that national prosperity must originate with the special interests, and seep down through the channels of trade to the less favored industries, to the wage earners and small salaried employes. It has accordingly enthroned privilege and nurtured selfishness." I repeat the words and I register the emphatic dissent of the Democratic Party from that doctrine.
I charge the Republican Party with corruption in administration; with favoritism to privileged classes in legislation; I charge it also with v division in council and impotence in action. No political party has the right to hold the reins of Government unless it can exhibit the cardinal virtues of honesty, sincerity and unity. Of these the last is by no means the least important.
No matter how lofty the ideals or how pure the purpose of any party, the country is not served unless it possesses both the will and the power to carry those ideals and purposes into effect. When it becomes a leaderless and incoherent mob it must give way to some rival better fitted for the task of government.
Need I dwell on the picture that the last twelve months present! On one side the Executive, on the other the members of his party in both houses of Congress, seeking different alms; entertaining different views; advocating different measures.
The Executive proposes adherence to the existing World Court. The request falls on dull ears until finally the leader of his party in the Senate brings forward, manifestly for obstructive purposes, an entirely different scheme. The Executive demands the Mellon bill, and members of his party in both houses of Congress, regular and insurgent, hasten to reject it.
He disapproves the Adjusted Compensation act. but Congress re-enacts it by the required two-thirds majority. Congress passes a measure granting to postal employes an increase in their meagre salaries; the President disapproves it. He protests against the restriction on Japanese immigration; Congress adopts it.
Whenever before did a party in control of the Executive and of a majority in both houses of Congress present so pitiable a spectacle of discord and division? By what right can a political organization so led and so disciplined appeal for a further lease of power?
Four years ago the Republican Party, in snarling criticism of the great leader then in office, promised to "end Executive autocracy." It has fallen into the pit that it dug, for its efforts in that direction have succeeded beyond its wildest dreams. An Executive who can not or will not lead, a Congress that can not and will not follow—how can good Government exist under such conditions?
Nor is it in domestic matters alone that the symptoms of this creeping paralysis have appeared. Not only have the Executive recommendations for adherence to the World Court, sanctioned as they are by long American tradition and example, been flouted and ignored, but no evidence is in sight that the Republican Party as now constituted can frame and carry to its conclusion any definite and consistent foreign policy.
Four years ago we were promised a new association of nations to be created in order to protect and preserve the peace of the world. No single proposal of this sort has yet appeared from any of those who so loudly promised it. With the reconstruction of Europe weighing heavily on the world with American economic life dwarfed and stunted by the interruption of world commerce; with the agricultural regions of the West sinking into bankruptcy because of the loss of their foreign markets, we have stood by as powerless spectators, offering to the world nothing but private charity and individual advice.
It is well enough to praise in unmeasured terms the charity of the American people. It is not an unworthy pride that makes us dwell upon the efforts individual Americans have made toward the solution of great world problems. But the question which presses itself upon the mind and conscience of the American people and will not be denied is what they, as a nation, speaking through their Government, have done or dared to do in this great field of action.
The Washington conference alone aside, and that of more than doubtful value, what single contribution has the United States of America, as an organized nation among nations, made to world peace in the last four years?
Individual Americans have gone abroad, but they went without the blessing of their Government. "Unofficial observers" have appeared at international conferences where America, if present at all, should have been present as an equal among equals. When but yesterday three Americans went to the conference on reparations, whose fruitful outcome all the world desires, Washington was prompt to disclaim all responsibility for whatever they might accomplish.
We achieved only what one of them has called a "bootlegging participation."
Three weeks ago. in the City of London, there came from the Secretary of State himself an amazing confession of this impotence.
Said he, "I may give it as my conviction that had we attempted to make America's contribution to the recent plan of adjustment a governmental matter, we should have been involved in a hopeless debate and there would have been no adequate action. We should have been beset with demands, objections. instructions, This is not the way to make an American contribution to economic revival."
If I can read these words aright, they can mean only this; that by reason either of the inability of the Executive to lead or the unwillingness of his party to follow, the foreign affairs of the United States, including the great and vital question of European settlement, must be left in private hands.
We must face the humiliating fact that we have a Government that does not dare to speak its mind beyond the three-mile limit.
A political party, which is at best but human, may make honest mistakes; they can be forgiven. It may pass unwise laws; they can be repealed. It may, through honest error, set men to tasks beyond their power; they can be displaced and others chosen in their stead. The unpardonable sin, however, for it is a sin that strikes at the national life, is conduct so corrupt, so partial and so feeble that it shakes the public confidence in government itself.
I indict the Republican Party in its organized capacity for having shaken public confidence to its very foundations. I charge it with having exhibited deeper and more widespread corruption than any that this generation of Americans has been called upon to witness. I charge it with complacency in the face of that corruption and with ill will toward the efforts of honest men to expose it. I charge it with gross favoritism to the privileged and with utter disregard of tire unprivileged.
I charge it with indifference to world peace and with timidity in the conduct of our foreign affairs. I charge it with disorganization, division and incoherence, and on the record I shall ask the voters throughout the length and breadth of this land to pass judgment of condemnation, as a warning to all men who may aspire to public office, that dishonesty either in thought, word or deed will not be tolerated in America. I cannot doubt what verdict they will render.
When they have made their answer, they will turn to us, as it is right they should, and ask what we have to offer in exchange and what pledges we can give that our offer will be performed. We are ready for the question. We are prepared to offer a Democratic program based on Democratic principles and guaranteed by a record of Democratic performance.
This program we have outlined in our platform; these principles are those by which the Democratic Party has been guided throughout the years —and which, like the creed of the Church, should be repeated whenever Democrats assemble—a belief in equal rights to all men and special privilege to none; in an ever wider and more equitable distribution of the rewards of toil and industry; in the suppression of private monopoly as a thing indefensible and intolerable; in the largest liberty for every individual; in local self-government as against a centralized bureaucracy; in public office as a public trust; in a Government administered without fear abroad or favoritism at home.
And our pledge will be the long roll of benificent [sic] legislation passed during our years of power, and the conduct without scandal or corruption of a great and victorious war fought under the gallant and inspiring leadership of Woodrow Wilson.
I have expressed, in general terms, my approval of the proposals contained in our platform. You will not expect me at this moment to discuss them in detail or to outline the methods by which they are to be carried into effect. There will be time enough for that. Far more important than the language of such documents is the spirit that breathes through them and gives them life.
The country has the right to know whether under the guidance of the Democratic Party it will follow a course of wise and continued progress, or be given over to the delusive panaceas of the dreamy radical or the smug complacency of the conservative who thinks that all goes well if only it goes well with him.
The words "progressive" and "reactionary" have been much used in American politics. There has been little effort to define their meaning. They are becoming mere tags which politicians fasten on themselves or their opponents without indulging in any mental process that remotely resembles thought. But, like shipping tags, the thing which really counts is the destination written on them—progress to what; reaction from what—that is the real question. Motion may be either backward or forward; it may even be going around in circles.
From my point of view he only deserves to be called a progressive who cannot see a wrong persist without an effort to redress it, or a right denied without an effort to protect it; who feels a deep concern for the economic welfare of the United States, but realizes that the making of better men and better women is a matter greater still; who thinks of every governmental policy first of all in its bearing upon human rights rather than upon material things; who believes profoundly in human equality and detests privilege in whatever form or in whatever disguise, and who finds the true test of success in the welfare of the many and not the prosperity and comfort of the few.
The civic unit of America is not the dollar but the individual man. All that goes to make better and happier and freer men and women is progress; all else is reaction. Progressives of this sort, though they may not care to use the name, nevertheless in their hearts are Democrats,
We shall strive, therefore, for the things that look to these great ends: for the education of our youth, not only in knowledge gathered from past ages but in the wholesome virtue of self-help; for the protection of women and children from human greed and unequal laws: for the prevention of child labor and for the suppression of the illicit traffic in soul-destroying drugs.
We shall conserve all the natural resources of the country and prevent the hand of monopoly from closing on them and on our water powers, so that our children after us shall find this still a fair land to dwell within.
And to the veterans of our wars, especially to those who were stricken and wounded in the country's service and whose confidence has been so cruelly and corruptly abused, we shall give, in honor and in honesty, the grateful care they have so justly earned.
Concerning our sentiments toward labor there is room for neither doubt nor cavil in the light of our past history. The right of labor to an adequate wage earned under healthful conditions, the right to organize in order to obtain it and the right to bargain for it collectively, through agents and representatives of its own choosing, have been established after many years of weary struggle. These rights are conceded now by all fair-minded men. They must not be impaired either by injunction or by any other device.
The Democratic Party, however, goes a step beyond this. Its attitude has been well described as one inspired neither by deference on the one hand nor by patronage on the other, but by a sincere desire to make labor part of the grand council of the nation, to concede its patriotism and to recognize that its knowledge of its own needs gives it a right to a voice in all matters of Government that directly or peculiarly affect its own rights.
This attitude has not changed; it will not change. Democracy in government and Democracy in industry alike demand the free recognition of the right of all those who work, in whatever rank or place, to share in all decisions that affect their welfare.
To the farmers of the United States also we promise not patronage but such laws and such administration of the laws as will enable them to prosper in their own right. They are not mendicants and, fortunately for all of us, are willing to take the risks that attend their all-important calling. They are entitled in return to a Government genuinely interested in their problems and keenly desirous to serve them to the limit of its power.
They feel today, more severely perhaps than any others, the depressing effect of discriminatory taxation. Buying in a protected market and selling in a market open to the world, they have been forced to contribute to the profits of those in other industries with no compensating benefit to themselves.
Recent experience has proved, if proof were needed, that an effort to help the farmer by a tariff on his products is the baldest political false pretense. He knows as well as any economist can tell him that the price he gets for his surplus crop depends upon conditions at the place of sale; and he realizes that his permanent prosperity depends not upon the decrease through crop shortages of the quantity he has to sell, but upon the restoration and expansion of the markets to which his good must go.
When he faces, as many do today, impending bankruptcy and ruin, it is small comfort to be told by those who are so solicitous to protect other industry from all possible competition that the farmer's salvation lies wholly with himself.
The "courageous and intelligent deflation of credits" which the Republican Party promised in its platform four years ago would have come with better grace and have proved more acceptable in its results if there had been at the same time any, effort to narrow instead of widen the gulf be- tween the prices which the farmer receives and those which he is compelled to pay, and to assist him in finding a market for the things he has to sell.
We propose to see to it that the discriminations which the tariff makes against him shall be removed; that his Government by doing its share toward a European Settlement shall help to revive and enlarge his foreign markets; that instead of lip service to the principle of cooperative marketing the forces of the Government shall be put actively at work to lend assistance to these endeavors; that the farmer shall be supplied not only with information on problems of production but with information such as the dealer now receives concerning the probable use and demand for his product, so that he may be enabled to think as intelligently as the dealer in terms of consumption and demand; and that in times when general and widespread distress has overtaken him, every power which the Government enjoys under the Constitution shall be exerted in his aid.
He is entitled, too, to demand an adequate service of transportation at reasonable rates. in spite of the failures and shortcomings of existing laws, this is an ideal which I cannot believe to be beyond the reach of attainment. If the seasonal production of the farmer's crops is the pulsation of the nation's heart, the railroads of the country are the veins and arteries through which its life blood flows. Neither can hope to function without the other's aid; and it is quite as important to the railroads that the farmer should prosper as it is to the farmer that the railroads should be adequately paid for the service that they render.
Believing that no people are truly free who are unjustly taxed, we promise to the people of America not only revision and reform but a further reduction in the taxes that weigh them down and sap the vigor of their productive energy. The exorbitant rates and discriminatory provisions of the present tariff law must be wiped out, and in their place must be written, with fairness to all and favors to none, a statute designed primarily to raise revenue for the support of the Government and framed on a truly competitive basis.
We have no hostile design toward any legitimate industry; we purpose no action that would tear down or destroy. But we are resolved that the laying and collecting of taxes shall remain a public and not a private business and that monopoly shall find no section of the law behind which to hide itself.
The rates of the income tax should be further lowered. Unnecessary taxation is unjust taxation no matter on whom the burden falls. I am ready to agree that there is no right in Government to tax any man beyond its needs solely because he is rich; and yet I stoutly hold that every dictate of reason and morality supports the rule that those who derive from the common effort of society a greater share of its earnings than their fellows must contribute to the support of the State a proportionately larger share of that which they have received.
Nor will we overlook the sound distinction which exists in principle between those incomes gathered without effort from invested capital, and those which are the product of exertion day by day.
And with reduction, indeed as a condition precedent to it, there must be economy in every part of the governmental establishment. I shall, if elected, welcome the opportunity to support and strengthen the beginnings which have been made in the direction of a national budget and to cooperate with Congress to that end. We must have in addition, an economy which consists not merely in securing a dollar's worth for every dollar spent, but that far less popular form of economy which imitates the prudent householder in doing without the things one wishes but cannot at the time afford.
Economy, however, begins at the wrong end when it attacks the pay of Government employes, who are justly entitled to pay equal to that they would receive from private employers for similar work. Every business executive knows that underpaid service is the dearest of all.
To the enforcement of the law, and all the law, we stand definitely pledged. We shall enforce it as fearlessly against wealth that endeavors to restrain trade and create monopoly, as against poverty that counterfeits the currency; as vigorously against ambition which seeks to climb to office through the corrupt use of money as against the lesser greed that robs the mails.
For no reason that is apparent to me the question has been asked, as perhaps it will continue to be asked until it has been definitely answered, what views I hold concerning the enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment and the statutes passed to put it into effect. Why the question; is it not the law?
I would hold in contempt any public official who took with uplifted hand an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, making at the same time a mental reservation whereby a single word of that great document is excluded from his vow.
An administrative officer is no more entitled to choose what statutes he will or will not enforce than is a citizen to choose what laws he will or will not obey. As well might he ask to strike from the Ten Commandments those he was not inclined to keep. Obedience to the law is the first duty of every good citizen, whether he be rich or whether he be poor; enforcement of the law against every violator, rich or poor, is the solemn obligation of every official.
But all that we do will be undone; all that we build will be torn down; all that we hope for will be denied, unless in conjunction with the rest of mankind we can lift the burden of vast armaments which now weighs upon the world and silence the recurring threat of war.
This we shall not do by pious wishes or fervid rhetoric. We will not contribute to it as a nation simply by offering to others, no more concerned than ourselves, our unsolicited advice. Providence does not give the gifts of peace to those who will not labor to achieve them.
In the name of the Democratic Party, therefore, I promise to the country that no enterprise sincerely directed to this end will lack our approval and cooperation. We favor the World Court in sincerity and not merely for campaign purposes or as an avenue of escape from the consideration of larger questions. We believe it a real advance toward the peaceful settlement of international disputes; an advance from which America cannot turn away without proving herself false to the teaching of a century.
We wish to see America as a nation play her part in that reconstruction of the economic life of Europe which has proven itself so indispensable to our own well-being and prosperity. We are ready for any conference on disarmament, provided it is so general in its membership and so wide in its scope as to be able to deal broadly with so broad a theme. We do not and we cannot accept the dictum unauthorized by any expression of popular will that the League of Nations is a closed incident so far as we are concerned.
We deny the right of any man to thus shut the gates of the future against us and to write the fatal word "Never" across the face of our foreign policy.
My own beliefs on this particular subject have been so frequently avowed, and are. I believe, so well understood, as hardly to need repetition. I yield to no man in my resolve to maintain America's independence, or in my unwillingness to involve her in the quarrels of other nations. Yet, from the day when the proposal was first put forward I believed that American duty and American interests alike, demanded our joining, as a free and equal people, the other free peoples of the world in this enterprise. Nothing that has since occurred has shaken me in that belief.
On the contrary, the march of events has shown not only that the League has within it the seed of sure survival but that it is destined more and more to become the bulwark of peace and order to mankind. Fifty-four nations now sit around its council table.
Ireland, I rejoice to say, has shaken off her long subjection, and once more a nation, has made her entry into the League the sign and symbol of her glorious rebirth. The time cannot be far distant when Germany will take the seat to which she is rightly entitled. Russia, Mexico and Turkey will make the roll, with one exception, entire and complete.
None of the nations in all this lengthening list have parted with their sovereignty or sacrificed their independence, or have imperilled [sic] by their presence their safety at home or their security abroad. I cannot reconcile their experience with the fears of those who dread a different fate for the United States.
There are in this country sincere minds who oppose both the World Court and the League and, indeed, any organic contact with other nations, because they wish the United States to live a purely opportunist life. They wish no obligation at any time to any other powers, even the slender obligation to consult and to confer.
I respect such opinions even though I do not share them; for, on sheerest grounds of national safety, I cannot think it prudent that the United States should be absent whenever all the other nations of the world assemble to discuss world problems. But I must be permitted to doubt the intellectual honesty of those who profess to favor organized international cooperation for peace and who studiously turn away from the only agencies yet created to that end.
In my own thought concerning the League two aspects of the question have been constantly before me. I have never found it possible greatly to concern myself as to the terms of our adherence or the language in which those terms, might be phrased.
Deeds are of more consequence than words. Time and custom and the laws of natural growth will have their way in spite of language, provided a sincere purpose lies behind them. Whatever the character in which we shall finally appear; it is the fact of our presence that will count. Neither have I at any time believed nor do I now believe, that the entrance of America into the League can occur, will occur or should occur until the common judgment of the American people is ready for the step.
We waited for this judgment to ripen in order that we might enter the war. I am content, if need be, to wait until it speaks for the agencies of peace.
That a day can and will come when this great question will finally be lifted entirely above the plane of partisan politics; when men will cease to take counsel, solely, of their passions their pride and their fears; and when the voice of public approval will find means to make itself heard, I am serenely confident.
Until that day arrives I deem it the duty of the Chief Executive to cooperate officially by every means at his command with all legitimate endeavors, whether they come from the League or from any other source, to lessen the prospect of future war; to aid in repairing the ravages of the wars that are past; to promote disarmament and to advance the well-being of mankind. Equally, too, his duty and the duty of Congress, burdensome as it may be, to maintain the means of adequate national defense until reason is permitted to take the place of force; we cannot throw away the sword when other scabbards are not empty.
Nor can I reconcile it with my ideas of the dignity of a great nation to be represented at international gatherings only under the poor pretense of "unofficial observation." If I become President -of the United States, America will sit as an equal among equals whenever she sits at all.
This brief outline of the views and purposes of the party as I understand them might well serve all the demands of this occasion, but in the platform we have adopted I find a further declaration concerning which my own convictions are too profound for silence. We have taken occasion to reaffirm our belief in the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, and to deplore and condemn any effort from whatever source to arouse racial or religious dissension in this country.
Such a declaration every right-thinking American must endorse. No disaster that the mind can picture equals in its hideous possibilities the coming in this country of a separation of its citizenship into discordant groups along racial or religious lines. Nothing would so utterly, destroy our happiness and security at home and our dignity and influence abroad. Let us thank God with reverence that those who builded [sic] the inheritance we enjoy dealt with that question and settled it long ago.
Let it be said to the immortal glory of those who founded the Province of Maryland that religious freedom on this side of the water began with the Toleration act, which they adopted in 1649. It broadened with the years, until it was written into the Constitution in language too plain to be mistaken, that in this happy land of ours every man might, without loss or threat of loss, without lessening or threat of lessening his civic, social or political rights, worship in his own way and fashion the one God and Father of us all. This toleration runs not only to the creed professed by a majority but to every creed, no matter how numerous or how few its adherents. It was written, too, that Church and State should be forever so far separate that neither the right nor the duty of public service should be diminished or enlarged by the religious belief of any man. It is the solemn duty of every believer in American institutions to oppose any challenge of this sacred doctrine, organized or unorganized, under whatever name or in whatever character it may appear.
From one who aspires to the Presidency, however, a declaration even more direct than this may rightfully be expected. I wish, therefore, not merely to denounce bigotry. Intolerance and race prejudice as alien to the spirit of America, I wish also to state how and in what way the views I entertain are to influence my actions.
Into my hands will fall, when I am elected, the power to appoint thousands of persons to office under the Federal Government. When that time arrives I shall set up no standard of religious faith or racial origin as a qualification for any office. My only query concerning any appointee will be whether he is honest, whether he is competent, whether he is faithful to the Constitution. No selection to be made by me will be dictated, inspired or influenced by the race or creed of the appointee.
One word more and I am done, and this of a personal character. It is known of all men that the nomination which you tender me was not made of my seeking. It comes, I am proud to believe, as the unanimous wish of one of the most deliberative conventions in American history, which weighed in the balance with soberness my too scant virtues and my manifold shortcomings.
It is not for me to reject so clear a call to duty. I am happy, however, in the thought that it finds me free from pledge or promise to any living man. I shall hold it so to the end. Perhaps my sense of obligation is all the greater because of these things.
To those who saw fit to present my name to the convention for its consideration, and to the delegates to that convention who accepted me, I am under a duty to justify their choice which I fully realize; to the party which honors me with its leadership I owe every effort which my faculties will allow; and to my fellow-countrymen whose support you bid me to solicit I owe the duty, first, to speak the truth as I see it, without fear, favor or evasion, and then so to bear myself that every person in the land, no matter how high or how humble, may feel that he has in me a friend, and that every citizen may know that he can look to his Government for unflinching honesty in thought and action.
When it becomes necessary, as no doubt it will, to raise funds for the conduct of the campaign, they will be contributed with this understanding and this only: that neither the Democratic Party nor I as its leader have any favors for sale. We can make but one promise to all men alike, that of an honest, an impartial and, so far as human wisdom will permit, a just Government.
To these things, Mr. Chairman, I pledge myself. In the struggle to secure them I invoke the support of all patriotic men and women to whom country is greater than party, honor more sacred than expediency and the right dearer than personal gain or all things else besides. In this spirit I accept your nomination and, relying upon a strength that is greater than my own, I am ready with joyful, confidence to assume the leadership you offer me.
Source: The New York Times, August 12, 1924.
John W. Davis, Address Accepting the Democratic Presidential Nomination in Clarksburg, West Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/355028