Herbert Hoover photo

Address in Cleveland, Ohio

October 15, 1932

My fellow citizens:

It gives me a great deal of pleasure to appear on the platform with my friend Mr. Ingalls, my friends the Senators and the Senator to be elect, my other friends who are candidates for the House of Representatives from Ohio. These men have served you well and will serve you well in the future. I commend them to the people of Ohio.

I have come to Cleveland tonight because of the depth of my feeling that it is in the vital interest of this Nation that the war which we have been waging against terrific forces which have disrupted our economic life should be carried forward by a Republican administration. A change in the strategy of that war--of those policies--may convert what is now a victorious battle in progress into a defeat of the American people.

A few days ago, I spoke at Des Moines with relation to agriculture. My remarks this evening will be directed largely to employment, to the wage and salary earners. I propose to review what the administration has done, and the measures and policies that .it has in action together with the relation of those policies to those of our opponents. Now, as President of the United States, I have the duty to speak to the workers, but I have also a certain personal right to so speak.

When I talk to you tonight about labor I speak not out of academic imaginings but from sharp personal experience. I have looked at these human problems not only from the fireside of one who has returned from a day's work with his own hands, but I know the problem that haunts the employer through the night, desperate to find the money with which to meet the week's payroll. In public service during years past I have had to look at these problems from the point of view of the national welfare as a whole.

Now, the people of a free nation have a right to ask of their Government, "Why has our employment been interrupted ? What measures have you taken in our protection ? What has been done to remove the obstacles from the return of our work to us ?" They not only have a right to ask these questions, but they have a right to an answer. I am here tonight to give that answer.

During these past 3 years our economic system has received the most terrific shock and dislocation which, had not strong action been taken by your Government, would have imperiled the Republic and the whole hope of recovery. It has affected business and industry and employment and agriculture alike. It is appropriate to repeat that while many of our measures are directed to the protection and assistance of particular groups, yet all are in the same boat, and all must come to shore together. And how are they to get to shore ? By listening to those who manifestly display a lack of knowledge of the character of the storm and of the primary problems of navigation ? By boring holes in the bottom of the boat? By throwing overboard the measures designed to meet the storm and which are proving their effectiveness ?

Now, our opponents have been going up and down the land repeating the statement that the sole or the major origins of this disruption and this worldwide hurricane came from the United States through the wild flotation of securities and the stock market speculation in New York 3 years ago, together with the passage of the Hawley-Smoot tariff bill, which took place 9 months after the storm broke.

I propose to discuss this assertion.

First, because it can be proved absolutely untrue.

Second, because the United States did not bring this calamity on the world. The United States is not the oppressor of the world.

Third, because it can be demonstrated to be founded upon a complete misunderstanding of what has happened in the world.

Fourth, because any party which exhibits such a lack of economic understanding upon which to base national policies should not be trusted with the fate of 25 million American families. They should not be trusted to command the battle against the most gigantic economic emergency with which our people have ever been confronted, and to bring that battle to victorious issue in the reestablishment of the functioning of our economic machine.

This thesis of the opposition as to the origin of our troubles is a wonderful explanation for political purposes. I would be glad, indeed, if all the enormous problems in the world could be simplified in such a fashion. If that were all that were the matter with us, we could have recovered from this depression 2 years ago instead of fighting ever since that moment against the most destructive forces we have ever had to meet in the whole history of the United States-and I might say fighting victoriously.

Nowhere do I find the slightest reference in all the statements of the opposition party to the part played by the greatest war in history, the inheritances from it, the fears and panics and dreadful economic catastrophes that have developed from these causes in foreign countries, or the idea that they may have had the remotest thing to do with the calamity against which this administration is fighting night and day.

The leaders of the Democratic Party appear to be in ignorance of the effect of the killing or incapacitating of 40 million of the best youth of the Earth, or of the stupendous cost of war--a sum of $300 billion or nearly equal to the value of all the property in the United States, or the stupendous inheritance of debt, with its consequent burden of taxes in scores of nations and with the stifling effect of these taxes on recuperation of industry or commerce and the paralyzing effect upon world commerce in the continued instability of currencies and budgets.

Democratic leaders have apparently not yet learned of the political instability that arose all over Europe from the harsh treaties which ended the war and the constant continuing political agitation and the creation of fear which has from time to time paralyzed all confidence. They have apparently never heard of the continuing economic dislocation from the transfer on every frontier of great masses of people from their former economic setting.

They apparently have not heard of the continuing dislocation of the stream of economic life which was caused by the carving of 12 new nations out of 3 old empires. Those nations have a rightful aspiration to build their own separate economic systems; they naturally have surrounded themselves with tariffs and other national protections; they have thereby diverted the long-established currents of trade. I presume, however, that if our Democratic leaders should hear of these nine new tariff walls introduced into the world some 14 years ago they would lay them at the door of the Smoot-Hawley bill passed 12 years later.

The Democratic leaders have apparently not heard of the increase of standing armies of the world from 2 to 5 million men, with the consequent burdens upon the taxpayer and the constant threat to the peace of the world.

They apparently ignore the effect of revolution among 300 million people in China, or the agitations among 300 million people in India, or the Bolshevist revolution among 160 million people in Russia. They have ignored the effect of Russia's dumping into the world the commodities taken from its necessitous people in a desperate effort to secure money with which to carry on--shall I call it a new deal ?

The Democratic leaders apparently have never heard that there has been gigantic overproduction of rubber in the Indies, or sugar in Cuba, or coffee in Brazil, or lead in Burma, or oil in Russia or Venezuela, or gigantic areas of new wheat lands in the Argentine and Canada. In each and every case these great over productions, far beyond consumption even in boom times, have crashed into the immutable law of supply and demand and brought inevitable collapse in prices and with it a train of bankruptcies and destruction of the buying power for American goods.

The Democratic leaders appear not to recognize that these forces finally generated economic strangulations and fears and panics, the streams of which precipitated another long series of worldwide disasters.

They apparently never heard that there followed revolutions in Spain, in Portugal, in Brazil, in the Argentine, in Chile, in Peru, in Ecuador, and Siam and attempts at revolution in a dozen other countries--all of them resulting in a partial or a practical repudiation of their debts and the constant decrease in buying power for our goods.

They seem not to know that the further accumulation of all these causes and dislocations finally put a strain upon the weakened economic systems of Europe until one by one they collapsed in failure of their gold standards and the partial or total repudiation of their debts. The Democratic leaders would hold the American people ignorant that every one of these nations in their financial crises imposed direct or indirect restrictions on the import of goods in order to reduce expenditures of their people. They call these "reprisals" against the Hawley-Smoot bill.

They apparently have never heard of the succeeding jeopardy-jeopardy into which our Nation was put through these destructions of world commerce, or the persistent dumping of securities into the American market from these panic-stricken countries, or the gigantic drains upon our gold and exchange, or the consequent fear that swept over our people, causing them to draw from our bank resources $1,500 million-all of which contracted our credit and resulted in demand for payment of debts right and left, and thwarted our every effort for industrial recovery.

Yet in face of all these tremendous facts, our Democratic friends leave the impression with the American people that the prime cause of this disaster was the boom in flotations and stock prices and a small increase in American tariffs.

Now, such an impression is unquestionably sought by the Democratic candidate when he states: "That bubble burst first in the land of its origin--the United States. The major collapse followed abroad. It was not simultaneous with ours."

Now, I do not underrate the distressing losses to millions of our people or the weakening of our strength from the mania of speculation and flotation of securities 3 years ago. But I may incidentally remark that the State governments have the primary responsibility to protect their citizens in these matters and that the vast majority of these transactions originated or took place in the State of New York.

But as to the accuracy of the statement which I have quoted I may call your attention to a recent bulletin of the highly respected National Bureau of Economic Research, in which it is shown that this depression in the world began in 11 countries, having a population of nearly 600 million people, before it even appeared in our country, instead of the bubble having "burst first in the United States." Their report shows the depression in eight other countries, with a population of another 600 million, started at the same time with ours. In fact, the shocks from the continued economic earthquakes in these other countries carried our prices far below the values that we would have otherwise sunk to, with all its train of greatly increased losses, perils, and unemployment.

Now, our opponents demand to know why the governmental leaders or businessmen over the world did not foresee the approach of these disintegrating forces. That answer is simple. The whole world was striving to overcome them, but finally they accumulated until certain countries could no longer stand the strain, and their people, suddenly being overtaken with fear and panic, through hoarding and the export of their capital for safety, brought down their own houses, and these disasters spread like a prairie fire through the world. No man can foresee the coming fear or panic, or the extent of its effect. I did not notice any Democratic Jeremiahs.

So much for the beginnings and forces moving in this calamity. And I have spent some moments upon them because it is necessary that the American people should understand them if it shall have a comprehension of the problems which it has to meet.

I now come to the amazing statements that the tariff bill of 1930 has borne a major influence in this debacle also.

I quote from the Democratic candidate; he says: "The Hawley-Smoot bill is one of the most important factors in the present worldwide depression.

"At another place: "It has destroyed international commerce."

At another place: "The tariff has done so much to destroy foreign trade as to make foreign trade virtually impossible."

Now, I shall analyze the accuracy of these statements not only because I should like to get before my countrymen a picture of the lack of understanding which the Democratic Party has of world trade, but also for the further reason that it is of vital importance to labor and .to our agriculture that, as our opponents have this obsession, it means that if they are intrusted with control of our Government, they intend to break down the protective tariff which is the very first line of defense of the American standard of living against these new and destructive forces.

Now, it requires a collection of dull facts to demonstrate the errors in these bald assertions.

At the beginning I may repeat that this tariff bill was not passed until 9 months after the economic depression began in the United States and also not until 20 other countries had already gone into the depression.

The Democratic Party seldom mentions that 66 percent of our imports are free of duty, but that happens to be the fact. From one-half to two-thirds of the trade of the world is conducted in nondurable goods-that is, mostly raw materials; some part are luxuries, upon which all nations collect tariffs for revenue; another part, probably less than one-third of the whole, is in competitive goods so far as the importing nation is concerned, and therefore, subject to protective tariffs.

Now, the trade of the world has distressingly diminished under the impact of these successive dislocations. But the decrease is almost exactly the same in the free goods everywhere as in the dutiable goods. That is the case in the United States. If the Smoot-Hawley bill reduced our imports of dutiable goods as our opponents claim and thereby destroyed international commerce, what was it that reduced the two-thirds of nondurable goods ?

Now, if we explore a little further, we will find from the Tariff Commission that the total duties collected in a comparable year represent 16 percent of the total imports--that is under the present tariff bill--that being an increase from 13.8 percent of the previous tariff bill. In other words, the effect of the new tariff was an increase of 2.2 percent when applied to the whole value of our imports. This is the margin which our opponents say have pulled down foreign governments, created tyrannies, financial shocks, and revolutions.

I may mention that, upon the same basis of calculation, the McKinley duties were 23 percent, the Dingley duties were 25 percent, the Payne-Aldrich duties were 19 percent of the whole of our imports-all compared with the 16 percent of the present tariff--and yet they produced no revolutions in foreign countries, no financial crises; they did not destroy the whole world nor destroy American trade.

And I may explore the facts a little further. The 5-year average of the import trade of the United States before the depression was about 12 Percent of the whole of the world's import trade. Now, the thesis of our opponents is that if you embarrass import trade, you destroy world trade. But they would say that 2.2 percent increase applied to one-eighth of the world's whole imports has produced this world catastrophe.

Now, I can explore this in still another direction. I would remind you that we levy tariffs upon only one-third of our imports. I also remind you that the actual increases made in the Smoot-Hawley bill covered only one-quarter of the dutiable imports. I may also remind you again that our import trade is only one-eighth of the total import trade of the world which we are supposed to have totally destroyed. So they would have us believe this world catastrophe and this destruction of foreign trade happened because the United States increased its tariffs on one-fourth of one-third of one-eighth of the world's imports, and that we pulled down the world, so they tell us, by increases on less than 1 percent of the goods being imported by the world as a whole.

And I may explore this thesis that the Republican tariff has destroyed the world a little further. He recently stated that this increase of tariffs "started such a drain on the gold reserves of the principal countries as to practically force all of them off the gold standard." At Des Moines I defended the American people from this piece of guilt. I pointed out that it happens there had been no drain of gold from Europe, which is the center of this disturbance, but on the contrary, that Europe's gold had increased every year since the Smoot-Hawley bill had been passed.

Now, my fellow citizens, I could continue for hours in an analysis of mistaken statements and misinformation from the opposition. But I assure you that this country is not to blame for the catastrophes that have come on the world. The American people did not originate the age-old controversies of Europe. We did not inaugurate the Great War or the panics that have taken place in the last 5 years.

No, my friends, the increase of duties collected by the United States of 2.2 percent calculated on all the goods we import didn't bring about the debacle in the world. If every country in the world were to increase the duty on their imports by 2.2 percent tomorrow, but if at the same time they would also adopt domestic policies which would bring about release of the energies and progress of their people, if they would maintain peace and good will with their neighbors, if they would support confidence in the world, then the world's, as well as our own, international commerce would thrive and boom beyond any dimensions that we ever dreamed of.

I've dwelt on this point not only because I believe it is important to correct current misstatements of our opponents, but because the policies of our opponents are rounded upon misconceptions of the utmost gravity for the future of the United States. If it were not a matter of such utter gravity for the future of our country, I should treat them not in a sense of seriousness but in a sense of humor. There is a vital determination before the American people as to whether there shall be placed in power over the destinies of 120 million of us a party which so lacks in penetration into the forces active in the world and the dangers which we confront and responsibilities that arise from them.

Now, I wish to examine the record and policies of the present administration in their relation to our wage and salary earners, for that record is made. They speak louder than promises. There are 12 major measures and policies which we have put into action and to which I would like to refer.

First, my concern in dealing with the problems of these times, while fighting to save our people from chaos and to restore order in our economic life, has been to avert hunger or cold amongst those upon whom these blows have fallen with heartbreaking severity--that is our unemployed workers.

In the fall of 1930 to meet this situation, I set up the President's Organization for Unemployment Relief 1 under able leadership. Through cooperation of every State, town, and village the forces were organized and mobilized which overcame victoriously the suffering of that winter. In the fall of 1931, we mobilized again, and again with the cooperation of Governors and local communities, all the associations and agencies in the United States, we carried a victorious battle over the winter of 1931-32. Still again, during the past few weeks, I have cooperated with the great national agencies in the remobilization of the voluntary forces of the country for an attack on the forthcoming winter.

1 In October 1930, the President's Emergency Committee for Employment was established under the chairmanship of Arthur Woods. In August 1931, the President's Organization on Unemployment Relief was established under the chairmanship of Walter S. Gifford.

But, fearing that the resources of individuals and of local communities and States were being exhausted, I settled with the Congress an authority to be given to the Reconstruction Corporation to loan a total of $300 million to those States whose needs might be found greater than the voluntary associations and local authorities could provide. I had great difficulties with Democratic leaders to prevent this being made a pork-barrel operation rather than one based upon need. Under that authority many millions have already been provided. We have provided, in addition, large quantities of wheat and cotton for the aid of those in distress. There should be no fear or apprehension at any deserving American fireside that starvation or cold will creep within their doors or menace their families and loved ones over the forthcoming winter.

With these 3 years of unceasing effort in relief, by the patriotic service of our citizens and our local communities and public officials, and the stimulus and mobilization that we have been able to give by the use of the Presidential office and direct support of the Federal Government, we present to the world a record unparalleled by any other nation in this period. That is a record expressed in technical terms yet interpretable into sheer human sympathy. That record is the information furnished to me constantly by the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service which shows, down to the latest moment, that the adult mortality, the infant mortality are at the lowest rate on record, and that the general health of the American people is at a higher level today than ever before in the history of our country- I know that there are exceptions and that there is suffering which always arises in communities where their organization is less efficient than it should be. Even so, no such record could be established if the Nation's unemployed were starving and without shelter. Yet some say that things could not be worse. Had these actions not been taken they would be a thousand times worse.

The second of our actions of interest to the workers was the conference which I called in Washington, in November 1929, of representatives of the leading employers, together with representatives of organized labor, and here we developed certain plans for dealing with this emergency. I believe this can be truly said to have been the first time in history that the Government has taken the leadership to secure an understanding between industry and labor of the complete mutuality of their interest in the face of a national danger.

We worked out on that occasion many purposes.

The first was to uphold the standard of real wages.

The second was to uphold the buying power of our working people until the cost of living had diminished.

The third was to prevent that thing which had happened in every previous depression in our history, and that was an immediate attack upon wages as a basis of maintaining profits. This proposal had the sympathetic support of the employers of the whole country, and for nearly 2 years they maintained the standard of wages in the United States; they maintained them in the face of disappearing profits. As the depression grew more severe there have been readjustments, but these readjustments have come about by agreement between employer and employee after profits were taxed and the cost of living was reduced. As a result of these efforts we have had the astonishing spectacle of a country in which there have been less strikes, less industrial conflict, with all of their bitterness, than even in normal times and where there has been less social conflict than in any other country disturbed by this depression.

The fourth of these undertakings made at that time had to do with the staggering of employment--instead of discharging a portion of workers into complete disaster.

The fifth of the undertakings made on that occasion was that the manufacturers, the railroads, and the utilities would expand their construction of new equipment beyond their immediate need. A vast sum of money was expended in these directions during the first year of the depression. Again some few months ago, I secured the interest of employers in organization of a new campaign to replace obsolete equipment and machinery. That is today resulting in an increase of employment.

As I have said, when history records this depression, it will record no brighter chapter in the whole history of the United States than the approach to this problem by both employers and leaders of labor in a sense of humanity and a sense of social responsibility. To them I pay high tribute. In the face of these results, let no man say that it could not be worse. If it had not been for these actions, this country would have been fired with the flames of bitterness and conflict between workers and employers; millions more would have been without jobs; wages would have been reduced far below their present level.

Now, day before yesterday my opponent announced a plan "to set up in times of prosperity what might be called a nest egg to be used for public works in time of depression." He said, "That is a policy which we should initiate when we get back to good times."

He advocates this apparently as a brand new idea. It will doubtless surprise him to learn that the eggs have not only been laid but they have hatched, long since.

He either ignores or is ignorant of the fact that as far back as 1922, in our unemployment conference of that year under my chairmanship, we developed then the idea of making use of public works to assist in the stabilization of employment in times of depression and laid the foundation for its operation. I do not claim to have invented the notion.

On the breaking out of this depression in November 3 years ago, I announced not only that the Federal Government would speed up its public works, but I requested the States and municipalities to do likewise. During the year 1930 we not only maintained these types of construction work, but we stimulated it to above normal--an amount of $500 to $800 million. The wide extent and pressure of the depression, however, rapidly cut into the construction abilities of many States and municipalities. We, however, have held Federal construction work up to three times its normal, straight through year by year. By the end of this fiscal year we will have expended nearly $2,400 million of Federal money on construction and maintenance work since the depression began. And I ask again, do you think things could not have been worse had these policies not been adopted ?

Now, there has proved to be a limitation, however, on this, and that limitation is that the Federal Government should not and must not undertake projects which are not of productive value to the Nation and must not extend its liabilities beyond its ability to maintain a balanced budget. To take money from the taxpayer and thus decrease his ability to employ people himself, and to put it into public works which will never make a real return to the public, is a waste of national wealth and an actual destruction of employment.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Federal Government was carrying a burden of $700 million of public works per annum--the very utmost that its resources permitted and the utmost that could be justified on merit--the Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate introduced, in May of this year, and secured the passage of a bill in the Democratic House of Representatives calling for $1,200 million more of public works. The expenditure of these sums meant unbalancing the budget; it meant the destruction of Government credit.

But, far worse than this, the works upon which it was intended to expend this money were of typical pork-barrel character. In that bill were 3,500 different projects scattered in every community in the country. One list alone would have imposed a maintenance charge on the Government of $15 million a year as against a perfectly efficient service now costing $3 million a year. Lists of the projects in different congressional districts were distributed in the hope that they would appeal to the cupidity of those districts and that I should be forced into the embarrassment not only of appearing to oppose my own policy of speeding up public works, but of depriving thousands of towns and villages of the expenditure of Federal money and myself of votes in this election.

Now, it is a good thing to have a fire in the grate to warm the house, but it is a bad thing to set the house on fire in order to warm your hands.

The Democratic candidate for Vice-President still advocates that bill. He proposes to introduce it in the next session. He proposes it as a part of the policies of the Democratic Party. But, with the responsibility of the President of the United States, I propose to continue to oppose it.

Some 8 months ago I requested that certain engineering associations investigate the possibility of aid from the Government by way of the use of governmental credit to stimulate construction of public and private works of what are called of reproductive character--that is, works that would earn a repayment of capital and interest and that were only halted from the lack of credit. As a result of the ventilation of these ideas the Reconstruction Corporation was authorized to make such loans up to $1,500 million.

Already that Corporation has authorized the starting of works, the ultimate cost of which will exceed $400 million. That is no cost to the taxpayer; it is the use of Government credit. The installation of these works will be productive in living for literally thousands of families.

Now, it is obvious that, in addition to the great dislocations that we have received by the demoralization of governments and markets abroad, that there is another economic force moving for which there must be a remedy. That was the so-called technological unemployment. In plain terms, our inventions of labor-saving machinery have outrun our discovery of new commodities and new services on which to absorb the men discharged from the older industries. In order to bring the Government into line with these facts, and upon my recommendation to Congress, the shorter hours were applied effectually to Government service so that we should spread Government employment over the largest possible numbers and yet decrease governmental expenses.

Another matter in which we have been greatly concerned on behalf of labor is that of a protection that has been near to my own heart over many years. That was the establishment of a better opportunity for our people to purchase their own homes and to have a chance to keep them when they had undertaken that great step in life. In November of last year I propounded the plan for a national system of home loan banks. These banks were for the purpose, with only the temporary assistance of the Government, of mobilizing the resources of building loan associations and savings banks and other institutions that are devoted to homeownership in order to enable them to borrow collectively on more favorable terms from the investor, and to assure to the borrower long-term payments at more reasonable rates. Literally thousands of heartbreaking instances of inability of working people to obtain renewal of expiring mortgages on favorable terms, and the consequent loss of their homes, have been one of the tragedies of this depression. Had the Democratic House of Representatives acted upon this measure at the time of its recommendation, we would have saved hundreds of thousands of such tragedies.

I did finally secure the passage of that bill through the Congress. Those banks will be opened and operating at the end of this month. The system is not as perfect as I could wish, but it has already had one immensely beneficial effect, and there will be others. The anticipation of its aid has largely stopped the foreclosing on homes, and with its operation it should give every man who wants to make a fight to hold onto his home the opportunity to do so.

And there is another purpose of interest to labor in the setting up of that new institution. Despite the tendency of the people in some communities to huddle in depression and therefore to create many vacant dwellings, yet there are other communities where people today wish to build new homes but cannot do so because they cannot borrow a portion of the cost. These institutions, by furnishing this capital, will give a renewed employment to many thousands of people.

Now, there are other matters of vast interest to labor. One of most primary interest is that of wages. I have for many years advocated high wages as the economic basis for the country. That has long been a Republican doctrine. That is the road to economical production and high consumption of products of the farm and factory.

Those who say that things could not be worse, without knowledge of what has happened in other countries which have gone through this cataclysm, might be interested in the rates of wages being paid abroad compared to the United States. In order to illustrate it, I have this week secured through the Department of Commerce a calculation on a basis which I have used before, and that is to interpret wages into currencies of other countries by means of a common denominator.

If we were to say that 5 percent of butter and 95 percent of flour would form the basis of that useful mixture called "bread and butter," then we might apply the weekly wages of different trades in different countries and determine how much each of them could buy at retail in those countries of that very useful compound. I will not read you the table 2 but I can point out to you that day labor in the United States can buy almost 400 pounds of that mixture with a week's wages, and that the highest skilled labor in our country can buy about 1,000 pounds a week; that the highest paid other wage in the world--and skilled wage at that--in the United Kingdom can buy 342 pounds. That is about one-third the amount that a similar trade can purchase in the United States. I could go on down through many countries represented in this table until I get to Japan, where I find that the purchasing power of Japanese wages will secure just about one-eighth the amount of bread and butter than can be secured by the American worker at today's wages.

2 The table to which the President referred is printed in the note to Item 364.

Now, as it bears most importantly on labor, I wish to return a moment to the tariff. There is no measure in the whole economic gamut more vital to the American workman and the farmer today than the maintenance of the protective tariff. I stand on that principle. Our opponents are opposed to it. They propose "a competitive tariff for revenue," and they propose to reduce the tariff. They propose to do this in the face of the fact that in the last year currencies of competing nations have depreciated by going off the gold standard. Consequently, the cost of living has lowered in 30 countries. So that this becomes a flat issue which every farmer and workman in the United States must consider from the point of view of his home and his living.

That it is the intention of the Democratic candidate to reduce the tariffs--on all commodities--must be clear from typical expressions used in the course of this campaign. It is styled a "wicked and exorbitant tariff." It is referred to as "its outrageous rates, .... almost prohibitive tariffs, .... the notorious and indefensible Smoot-Hawley tariff, .... the excessive rates of that bill must come down, .... until the tariff is lowered," "our policy calls for lower tariffs" and so on and so forth.

Now, I would like to put the question to our own people both on the bench and on the farm: Do you want to compete with laborers whose wages in their own money is only sufficient to buy from one-eighth to one-third of the amount of bread and butter that you can buy at the present rates of wages and the present price of commodities bad as they are ? That is a plain question. It does not require a great deal of ingenious argument to support it or find its correct answer. It is true that we have the most gigantic market in the world today, and we are surrounded by nations clamoring to get in. But it is still my belief that we should protect this market for our own labor, and that we should not surrender to the labor of foreign countries as the Democratic Party proposes to do.

Now, on a matter of great importance to labor, that in order to hold the jobs which we have for our own people and to prevent further additions to our unemployed and thus prevent further burdens upon our communities, I have by administrative order practically prohibited all immigration from every quarter of the globe, except the relatives of our residents. It has reduced the numbers of people coming into the United States seeking employment to less than those who are departing. That order was issued 2 years ago. Had the net immigration taken place since the date of that order which took place in the 2 years previously, we would have had 400,000 jobs taken away from our people or had just that many more persons added to the unemployed. And even that might have been worse.

Now, there is nothing in which the American workman is more concerned than in preserving the integrity of the American dollar. The Democratic Party has at various times, and especially by the passage of the Patman bill through the Democratic House of Representatives on June 15 last, endeavored to undermine the integrity of the American currency through the issue of $2,300 million of greenbacks. They were barking back to the disastrous experiment of some 60 years ago. If any of you will study what happened in Germany, or France, or Austria, or our own country at that period, long since past, when we have resorted or they have resorted to these measures in order to meet the immediate difficulties you will find that the major hardship fell upon the working people. There was a time when the value of the German mark was five to the dollar. Then they tried this plan of relief to their economic difficulty. I have in my desk a 5 million mark note which I purchased, which before the entrance into the experiment would have been worth $1 million, and yet I actually bought for $1. The effect of that experiment and all other experiments of that kind is a subtle and steady reduction of real wages, right and left.

We have fought a great battle to maintain the stability of the American dollar, the stability of our exchange. We have fought in order that we might protect the working people of the United States.

Over and above and of infinitely more importance than all of the measures I have mentioned is the problem of restoring the great mass of normal jobs in our country. Emergency jobs have helped enormously, but the normal job is the permanent dependence of the worker. Emergency jobs will never heal the depression.

Obviously, the normal jobs lie in the production and distribution of goods and services; in other words, the factories, the mills, the mines, the railways, the public utilities, the stores, the offices.

And every part of this mechanism is lubricated by what we call credit. That is, the ability of the manager of a business to borrow money to buy his raw materials and pay his labor. Thus credit is the very lifeblood of this whole structure. It is the lifeblood of jobs. If credit fails the enterprise dries up; it withers and it dies. And jobs decrease or disappear.

Now then, what is the source of credit ? That is the savings of the people themselves. These savings are gathered in a myriad of tiny rivulets of their deposits in the banks, their premiums to life insurance companies, their dues to benevolent and fraternal organizations, their payments to building and loan associations, and a score of other ways. These rivulets in total volume are a mighty river. Their waters are stored in credit reservoirs. These are the banks and the mortgage companies and the insurance companies and the investments in the services of industry and of business. Now, all this may sound trivial, but it is fundamental to an understanding of the processes that we have gone through and the measures that we have adopted.

Thus credit is born of the people themselves. What the people give, the people can take away. The reservoirs of credit are built upon the confidence of the people in them, and fear is death to credit.

Now, when the great economic earthquakes abroad struck directly at the credit structures of those foreign countries, those shocks reverberated to us. I have already said that foreigners dumped their securities here at panic prices and demanded gold in payment. They claimed their deposits from American banks. They demanded cash for all the goods they had sold us. Our own people in fear drew out $1,500 million of their savings from our own banks. Thus credit dried up. The managers of business turned in vain for the accustomed loans to pay for raw materials and to pay their labor.

Beyond all this contraction of credit was the fear and panic through the world, spreading its destruction into the United States. It imperiled the institutions in which were the savings of all of the other people, the savings of every fireside--bank deposits or insurance policies or investments. In this contraction of credit lay the dangers to everyone who owed money, for upon demand for immediate payment he was compelled to sell his property in a limited and vastly depreciated market and so was threatened with ruin.

Faced with these unprecedented perils, we took unprecedented steps. We refused to allow these destructive forces to run their course to chaos and ruin and to total unemployment. We organized the cooperation of the community. We thrust the strength of the Government as a shield before the people as has never been done before in the history of the United States and that for the purpose of protecting labor.

I have referred to these gigantic measures on other occasions. I will not take your time to again describe the weapons and instrumentalities that we have brought to bear in this battle. We have created them, and we created them to preserve your savings deposits, your insurance policies, and to protect you from foreclosure on your homes and your farms. We did it to hold for you the jobs you have and, finally, to recover the ground lost in the battle and restore the jobs which have been lost. That has been the battle of credit. The restoration of credit is the restoration of the lifeblood of this system and the restoration of normal jobs in the United States. It has been a great battle with inevitable casualties, but that battle is being won. Credit is being expanded, and normal jobs are coming back.

Now, the agencies and the instrumentalities that we have created are working day and night. They are producing results. September, as announced by the Department of Labor this morning, shows an increase of 3.6 percent in employment for the whole country for that one month alone. If these policies shall be uninterrupted, if we shall hold the financial integrity of the United States by maintaining a balance in our budget, these measures and these instrumentalities together with the courage and industry of our people will bring back our economic system a long way toward its normal functioning and the restoration of our people to their normal jobs.

Let no man say that things could not have been worse. Without these many measures, things would have been so much worse today that this moment would look like prosperity in retrospect.

Now, there is another phase of this problem in its larger vision. It must be clear to you and ought to be clear to the country that a major part of the shocks and dislocations which have brought this destruction were of foreign origin--not alone in the shortening down of our markets but in the crushing of credit through fear and the destruction of confidence throughout the world. They are not of American making. The fact that we have suffered from them implies in itself that labor and agriculture have a fundamental interest in securing greater stability abroad. Our self-containment is such that we can build back a long way on our own resources. But if it is possible to improve the internal stability of other nations, it would at once allow them to relax their emergency restrictions against exchange and the import of commodities; it would allow them to return to stable currencies and enable the world to be free from political shocks--all of which would build for American markets and for the American farmer and for American labor and for stability in American confidence. It would protect the American worker and farmer and businessman from a rising flood of goods due to depreciated currencies and lowered standards of living. To this major end, which means work for our unemployed and increasing prices for our farmers, we have given steady devotion during this last year and a half.

I will not review for you the German moratorium which prevented the total collapse of the German people or the standstill agreement or a half dozen other measures in this direction. But I will point out to you that in an endeavor to strike at the root of such evils I have proposed that the armaments of the world should not only be cut by one-third but that the weapons and methods in use should be so altered as to increase the power of defensive weapons and decrease the power of offensive weapons. We not only thereby seek to remove fear and political shocks, but the substantial acceptance of this proposal would save the United States over $200 million annually and through savings of taxation in European countries would increase their buying power by perhaps a billion a year. It would release a thousand energies amongst their people.

Further, we have taken part in the development of a world economic conference to be held later in the year to consider a multitude of monetary and other economic questions which will reduce the obstacles to recovery.

In this connection, with all these problems, the European war debts to the United States constantly arise. I have consistently opposed the cancellation of these debts. The Democratic candidate, to use his own words, proposes to reduce our tariffs so that out of Europe's profits through the increase of trade they would obtain from the United States, they could pay us these debt annuities. That is vastly worse than cancellation. That would take money out of the pockets of the American farmer, laborer, and businessman to pay Europe's debts.

In the constructive handling of this question I have stated that I would favor the utilization of the war debts to advantage agriculture and labor. Such action has already received the support of many leaders of both agriculture and labor.

I am confident that if these policies which we are proposing in building up in these three directions--that is, disarmament, economic stability of the world, and the proposed use of these debts to secure the ends I have mentioned--I believe we can confidently hope to promote more rapid recovery and that we can greatly safeguard ourselves from future economic shocks.

Now, that briefly is the record of organization and the measures that we have taken in aid to labor. It is radical in its defense of our people's interests; it is progressive in constructive advancement of our people, but it is conservative in maintaining the fundamental principles of American life.

Now, I should like to digress for a moment to a purely personal matter which I have some hesitation in expressing. In my hand I have a copy of the instructions issued by the Democratic National Committee to their speakers. I find a paragraph referring to my "dark labor record." I am glad to say that is neither pink nor red. But what they do say is: "First and indelible, his early record is clouded by his former partnerships which contracted cheap Chinese coolie labor in South African mines." It goes further with references to statements of Democratic leaders grieving over this coolie labor and implies that I engaged in the slavery of human beings.

Now, that calumny has been disproved and denounced time and again. Some of my friends have even gone to the extent of digging up the public records of 28 years ago, which show that at the time Chinese labor was imported into South Africa mines, that I publicly protested on the grounds that high-paid skilled labor could do the work more efficiently. And furthermore, no South African concern with which I was ever connected and I was employed as an engineer, ever employed a single Chinese laborer. But more important in connection with this, I happen to have in the files in Washington, from the man who first penned and spread those lies, a statement under oath, humbly and abjectly withdrawing them.

Such contemptible statements in a political campaign would be ignored-should be ignored--were it not issued by the authority of the Democratic National Committee as a part of this campaign, and it would be of no interest to the American people except that it is proposed that a political party shall be placed in power over 120 millions of people on the basis of votes secured in that manner.

I should like a moment also to shortly indicate the Democratic record of action during this trying period that we have gone through in the past 12 months. The Democratic Party has laid before the country its program both in the last session of Congress and in the promises of its candidates.

At no time in the history of the country have we required more constructive statesmanship than in this last 2 years. The Democratic Party in the last congressional election promised a definite program for restoration of the country. That program was not disclosed until 18 months later in the House of Representatives which they controlled. Aside from the highly patriotic support which I always acknowledge of many of their members to our program, the organized program of their party was evidenced by passage of one act after another through the House of Representatives which had to be stopped either by veto or successful opposition in the Senate or through public support. Those bills consisted of an omnibus pension bill; of an order to the Federal Reserve Board and the Treasury to fix prices in the United States, which they could not physically carry out; of a $1,200 million pork-barrel public works bill; of the payment of a cash bonus to veterans of $2,300 million; of the issuance of $2,300 million of old-fashioned greenbacks, which I have referred to; of the destruction of the effectiveness of the Tariff Commission; and the placing of the United States Government into direct and personal banking on a stupendous scale.

Instead of decreasing governmental expenditures, as they had assured the country that they will do if they were given full control of the Government and that they have promised that they will do, they failed to accept the recommendation of the administration for reduction of expenditures, and on top of it passed measures that would have increased them by $3,500 million.

We are willing to rest our case upon the comparison of these records of actual performance--not upon promises.

In closing, let me carry these issues to a plane above any personal considerations. I have discussed with you tonight the battles we have fought, the measures and policies we have in action which more particularly relate to those who work at the bench and at the desk. Parallel with these actions other battles have been fought on a score of fronts, on behalf of agriculture, and of industry and business, to which the welfare of every worker is indissolubly related.

We have been fighting not only as an administration but as a people, to relieve distress, to repel impending catastrophes and to restore the functioning of our economic life. This economic system has but one end to serve. That end is not the making of money. It is to create security in the millions of homes of our country. It is to produce increasing comfort, to open wider the windows of hope, to increase the moral and spiritual stature of our people, to give opportunity for that understanding upon which national ideals and national character may be more and more strengthened.

In securing these ends the first necessity is to preserve those precious heritages and principles which have come down to us forged in the fires of long generations of Americans. They are principles and institutions which, while they have the imperfections of humanity, yet they represent the highest expressions of human attainment in thousands of years.

And to me a great historical truth has been revealed during this period of trial and of stress. This is the striking fact, driven home above all others, that never during these trying weeks, months, and years has the soul of America yielded to the bitter sting of defeat. Bewilderment and dismay have seized upon some of our people, but never did the spirit of America itself surrender. Never for an instant did the American people lose faith in the principles of their Government, of their institutions, or their country, or their faith in their God. Had America not stood staunch in this world storm, had it surrendered, had our people lost faith, the tide of disintegration might now engulf us all.

It has been the intangible and mighty forces of this unconquerable spirit of the Nation that has overcome the dangers and perils which might have plunged the world into a long period of chaos. Incessant above the storms in business, above the din of political debate and legislative battle, there has been the firm, strong voice of the people bidding that we should carry on.

No one who has seen this battle as I have seen it, who has watched the bright fabric of recovery woven laboriously day by day, with the stout efforts of American faith and confidence in her people, could harbor a doubt for the future of the American people.

If there shall be no retreat, if the attack shall continue as it is now organized, then this battle in the history of our race is won.

Note: The President spoke at 8:30 p.m. to an audience of approximately 30,000 people assembled in Public Hall. The National Broadcasting Company and the Columbia Broadcasting System radio networks carried the address.

In his opening remarks, the President referred to David S. Ingalls, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aeronautics, who was Republican gubernatorial candidate in Ohio. The above text is a transcript taken from a sound recording of the address.

Herbert Hoover, Address in Cleveland, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/207858

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives