Address to a Joint Session of Congress on Urgent National Problems
Members of the Congress:
You have been called in extraordinary session to give your consideration to national problems far too pressing to be long neglected. We face our tasks of legislation and administration amid conditions as difficult as our government has ever contemplated. Under our political system the people of the United States have charged the new Congress and the new Administration with the solution—the readjustments, reconstruction, and restoration which must follow in the wake of war.
It may be regretted that we were so illy prepared for war's aftermath, so little made ready to return to the ways of peace, but we are not to be discouraged. Indeed, we must be the more firmly resolved to undertake our work with high hope, and invite every factor in our citizenship to join in the effort to find our normal, onward way again. The American people have appraised the situation, and with that tolerance and patience which go with understanding they will give to us the influence of deliberate public opinion which ultimately becomes the edict of any popular government. They are measuring some of the stern necessities, and will join in the give and take which is so essential to firm reestablishment.
First in mind must be the solution of our problems at home, even though some phases of them are inseparably linked with our foreign relations. The surest procedure in every government is to put its own house in order. I know of no more pressing problem at home than to restrict our national expenditures within the limits of our national income, and at the same time measurably lift the burdens of war taxation from the shoulders of the American people.
One can not be unmindful that economy is a much-employed cry most frequently stressed in preelection appeals, but it is ours to make it an outstanding and ever-impelling purpose in both legislation and administration. The unrestrained tendency to heedless expenditure and the attending growth of public indebtedness, extending from federal authority to that of state and municipality and including the smallest political subdivision, constitute the most dangerous phase of government today. The nation can not restrain except in its own activities, but it can be exemplar in a wholesome reversal.
The staggering load of war debt must be cared for in orderly funding and gradual liquidation. We shall hasten the solution and aid effectively in lifting the tax burdens if we strike resolutely at expenditure.
It is far more easily said than done. In the fever of war our expenditures were so little questioned, the emergency was so impelling, appropriation was so unimpeded that we little noted millions and counted the Treasury inexhaustible. It will strengthen our resolution if we ever keep in mind that a continuation of such a course means inevitable disaster.
Our current expenditures are running at the rate of approximately five billions a year, and the burden is unbearable. There are two agencies to be employed in correction: One is rigid resistance in appropriation and the other is the utmost economy in administration. Let us have both. I have already charged department heads with this necessity. I am sure Congress will agree; and both Congress and the Administration may safely count on the support of all right-minded citizens, because the burden is theirs. The pressure for expenditure, swelling the flow in one locality while draining another, is sure to defeat the imposition of just burdens, and the effect of our citizenship protesting outlay will be wholesome and helpful. I wish it might find its reflex in economy and thrift among the people themselves, because therein lies quicker recovery and added security for the future.
The estimates of receipts and expenditures and the statements as to the condition of the Treasury which the Secretary of the Treasury is prepared to present to you will indicate what revenues must be provided in order to carry on the government's business and meet its current requirements and fixed-debt charges. Unless there are striking cuts in the important fields of expenditure, receipts from internal taxes can not safely be permitted to fall below $4,000,000,000 in the fiscal years 1922 and 1923. This would mean total internal tax collections of about one billion less than in 1920 and one-half billion less than m 1921.
The most substantial relief from the tax burden must come for the present from the readjustment of internal taxes, and the revision or repeal of those taxes which have become unproductive and are so artificial and burdensome as to defeat their own purpose. A prompt and thoroughgoing revision of the internal tax laws, made with due regard to the protection of the revenues, is, in my judgment, a requisite to the revival of business activity in this country. It is earnestly hoped, therefore, that the Congress will be able to enact without delay a revision of the revenue laws and such emergency tariff measures as are necessary to protect American trade and industry.
It is of less concern whether internal taxation or tariff revision shall come first than has been popularly imagined, because we must do both, but the practical course for earliest accomplishment will readily suggest itself to the Congress. We are committed to the repeal of the excess-profits tax and the abolition of inequities and unjustifiable exasperations in the present system. The country does not expect and will not approve a shifting of burdens. It is more interested in wiping out the necessity for imposing them and eliminating confusion and cost in the collection.
The urgency for an instant tariff enactment, emergency in character and understood by our people that it is for the emergency only, can not be too much emphasized. I believe in the protection of American industry, and it is our purpose to prosper America first. The privileges of the American market to the foreign producer are offered too cheaply today, and the effect on much of our own productivity is the destruction of our self-reliance which is the foundation of the independence and good fortune of our people. Moreover, imports should pay their fair share of our cost of government.
One who values American prosperity and maintained American standards of wage and living can have no sympathy with the proposal that easy entry and the flood of imports will cheapen our cost of living.
It is more likely to destroy our capacity to buy. Today American agriculture is menaced, and its products are down to prewar normals, yet we are endangering our fundamental industry through the high cost - of transportation from farm to market and through the influx of foreign farm products, because we offer, essentially unprotected, the best market in the world. It would be better to err in protecting our basic food industry than paralyze our farm activities in the world struggle for restored exchanges.
The maturer revision of our tariff laws should be based on the policy of protection, resisting that selfishness which turns to greed, but ever concerned with that productivity at home which is the source of all abiding good fortune. It is agreed that we can not sell unless we buy, but ability to sell is based on home development and the fostering of home markets. There is little sentiment in the trade of the world. Trade can and ought to be honorable, but it knows no sympathy. While the delegates of the nations at war were debating peace terms at Paris, and while we later debated our part in completing the peace, commercial agents of other nations were opening their lines and establishing their outposts, with a forward look to the morrow's trade. It was wholly proper, and has been advantageous to them. Tardy as we are, it will be safer to hold our own markets secure, and build thereon for our trade with the world.
A very important matter is the establishment of the Government's business on a business basis. There was toleration of the easy-going, unsystematic method of handling our fiscal affairs, when indirect taxation held the public unmindful of the Federal burden. But there is knowledge of the high cost of government today, and high cost of living is inseparably linked with high cost of government. There can be no complete correction of the high living cost until government's cost is notably reduced. Let me most heartily commend the enactment of legislation providing for the national budget system. Congress has already recorded its belief in the budget. It will be a very great satisfaction to know of its early enactment, so that it may be employed in establishing the economies and business methods so essential to the minimum of expenditure.
I have said to the people we meant to have less of Government in business as well as more business in Government. It is well to have it understood that business has a right to pursue its normal, legitimate, and righteous way unimpeded, and it ought have no call to meet government competition where all risk is borne by the public Treasury. There is np challenge to honest and lawful business success. But government approval of fortunate, untrammeled business does not mean toleration of restraint of trade or of maintained prices by unnatural methods. It is well to have legitimate business understand that a just government, mindful of the interests of all the people, has a right to expect the co-operation of that legitimate business in stamping out the practices which add to unrest and inspire restrictive legislation. Anxious as we are to restore the onward flow of business, it is fair to combine assurance and warning in one utterance.
One condition in the business world may well receive your inquiry. Deflation has been in progress but has failed to reach the mark where it can be proclaimed to the great mass of consumers. Reduced cost of basic production has been recorded, but high cost of living has not yielded in like proportion. For example, the prices on grains and live stock have been deflated, but the cost of bread and meats is not adequately reflected therein. It is to be expected that non-perishable staples will be slow in yielding to lower prices, but the maintained retail costs in perishable foods can not be justified.
I have asked the Federal Trade Commission for a report of its observations, and it attributes, in the main, the failure to adjust consumers' cost to basic production costs to the exchange of information by "open-price associations," which operate, evidently, within the law, to the very great advantage of their members and equal disadvantage to the consuming public. Without the spirit of hostility or haste in accusation of profiteering, some suitable inquiry by Congress might speed the price readjustment to normal relationship, with helpfulness to both producer and consumer. A measuring, rod of fair prices will satisfy the country and give us a business revival to end all depression and unemployment.
The great interest of both the producer and consumer—indeed, all our industrial and commercial life, from agriculture to finance—in the problems of transportation will find its reflex in your concern to aid reestablishment, to restore efficiency, and bring transportation cost into a helpful relationship rather than continue it as a hindrance to resumed activities.
It is little to be wondered that ill-considered legislation, the war strain, Government operation in heedlessness of cost, and the conflicting programs, or the lack of them, for restoration have brought about a most difficult situation, made doubly difficult by the low tide of business. All are so intimately related that no improvement will be permanent until the railways are operated efficiently at a cost within that which the traffic can bear.
If we can have it understood that. Congress has no sanction for government ownership, that Congress does not levy taxes upon the people to cover deficits in a service which should be self-sustaining, there will be an avowed foundation on which to rebuild.
Freight-carrying charges have mounted higher and higher until commerce is halted and production discouraged. Railway rates and costs of operation must be reduced.
Congress may well investigate and let the public understand wherein our system and the federal regulations are lacking in helpfulness or hindering in restrictions. The remaining obstacles which are the heritance of capitalistic exploitation must be removed, and labor must join management in understanding that the public which pays is the public to be served, and simple justice is the right and will continue to be the right of all the people.
Transportation over the highways is little less important, but the problems relate to construction and development, and deserve your most earnest attention, because we are laying a foundation for a long time to come, and the creation is very difficult to visualize, in its great possibilities. The highways are not only feeders to the railroads and afford relief from their local burdens, they are actually lines of motor traffic in interstate commerce. They are the smaller arteries of the larger portion of our commerce, and the motor car has become an indispensable instrument in our political, social, and industrial life. There is begun a new era in highway construction, the outlay for which runs far into hundreds of millions of dollars. Bond issues by road districts, counties, and States mount to enormous figures, and the country is facing such an outlay that it is vital that every effort shall be directed against wasted effort and unjustifiable expenditure. The federal government can place no inhibition on the expenditure in the several States; but, since Congress has embarked upon a policy of assisting the states in highway improvement, wisely, I believe, it can assert a wholly becoming influence in shaping policy.
With the principle of federal participation acceptably established, probably never to be abandoned, it is important to exert federal influence in developing comprehensive plans looking to the promotion of commerce, and apply our expenditures in the surest way to guarantee a public return for money expended.
Large federal outlay demands a federal voice in the program of expenditure. Congress can not justify a mere gift from the federal purse to the several states, to be prorated among counties for road betterment. Such a course will invite abuses which it were better to guard against in the beginning.
The laws governing federal aid should be amended and strengthened. The federal agency of administration should be elevated to the importance and vested with authority comparable to the work before it. And Congress ought to prescribe conditions to federal appropriations which will necessitate a consistent program of uniformity which will justify the federal outlay.
I know of nothing more shocking than the millions of public funds wasted in improving highways, wasted because there is no policy of maintenance. The neglect is not universal, but it is very near it. There is nothing the. Congress can do more effectively to end this shocking waste than condition all federal aid on provisions for maintenance. Highways, no matter how generous the outlay for construction, can not be maintained without patrol and constant repair. Such conditions insisted upon in the grant of federal aid will safeguard the public which pays and guard the federal government against political abuses, which tend to defeat the very purposes for which we authorize federal expenditure.
Linked with rail and highway is the problem of water transportation —inland, coastwise, and transoceanic. It is not possible, on this occasion, to suggest to Congress the additional legislation needful to meet the aspirations of our people for a merchant marine. In the emergency of war we have constructed a tonnage equaling our largest expectations. Its war cost must be discounted to the actual values of peace, and the large difference charged to the war emergency, and the pressing task is to turn our assets in tonnage to an agency of commerce.
It is not necessary to say it to Congress, but I have thought this to be a befitting occasion to give notice that the United States means to establish and maintain a great merchant marine.
Our differences of opinion as to a policy of upbuilding have been removed by the outstanding fact of our having builded. If the intelligent and efficient administration under the existing laws makes established service impossible, the Executive will promptly report to you. Manifestly if our laws governing American activities on the seas are such as to give advantage to those who compete with us for the carrying of our own cargoes and those which should naturally come in American bottoms through trade exchanges, then the spirit of American fair play will assert itself to give American carriers their equality of opportunity. This republic can never realize its righteous aspirations in commerce, can never be worthy the traditions of the early days of the expanding republic until the millions of tons of shipping which we now possess are coordinated with our inland transportation and our shipping has government encouragement, not government operation, in carrying our cargoes under our flag, over regularly operated routes, to every market in the world agreeable to American exchanges. It will strengthen American genius and management to have it understood that ours is an abiding determination, because carrying is second only to production in establishing and maintaining the flow of commerce to which we rightfully aspire.
It is proper to invite your attention to the importance of the question of radio communication and cables. To meet strategic, commercial, and political needs, active encouragement should be given to the extension of American-owned and operated cable and radio services. Between the United States and its possessions there should be ample communication facilities providing direct services at reasonable rates. Between the United States and other countries not only should there be adequate facilities, but these should be, so far as practicable, direct and free from foreign intermediation. Friendly cooperation should be extended to international efforts aimed at encouraging improvement of international communication facilities and designed to further the exchange of messages. Private monopolies tending to prevent the development of needed facilities should be prohibited. Government- owned facilities, wherever possible without unduly interfering with private enterprise or government needs, should be made available for general uses. Particularly desirable is the provision of ample cable and radio services at reasonable rates for the transmission of press matter, so that the American reader may receive a wide range of news, and the foreign reader receive full accounts of American activities. The daily press of all countries may well be put in position to contribute to international understandings by the publication of interesting foreign news.
Practical experience demonstrates the need for effective regulation of both domestic and international radio operation if this newer means of intercommunication is to be fully utilized. Especially needful is the provision of ample radio facilities for those services where radio only can be used, such as communication with ships at sea, with aircraft, and with out-of-the-way places. International communication by cable and radio requires co-operation between the powers concerned. Whatever the degree of control deemed advisable within the United States, government licensing of cable landings and of radio stations transmitting and receiving international traffic seems necessary for the protection of American interests and for the security of satisfactory reciprocal privileges.
Aviation is inseparable from either the army or the navy, and the Government must, in the interests of national defense, encourage its development for military and civil purposes. The encouragement of the civil development of aeronautics is especially desirable as relieving the government largely of the expense of development, and of maintenance of an industry, how almost entirely borne by the government through appropriations for the military, naval, and postal air services. The Air Mail Service is an important initial step in the direction of commercial aviation.
It has become a pressing duty of the federal government to provide for the regulation of air navigation; otherwise independent and conflicting legislation will be enacted by the various states which will hamper the development of aviation. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, in a special report on this subject, has recommended the establishment of a Bureau of Aeronautics in the Department of Commerce for the federal regulation of air navigation, which recommendation ought to have legislative approval.
I recommend the enactment of legislation establishing a Bureau of Aeronautics in the Navy Department to centralize the control of naval activities in aeronautics, and removing the restrictions on the personnel detailed to aviation in the navy.
The army air service should be continued as a coordinate combatant of the army, and its existing organization utilized in cooperation with other agencies of the government in the establishment of national transcontinental airways, and in cooperation with the states in the establishment of local airdromes and landing fields.
The American people expect Congress unfailingly to voice the gratitude of the republic in a generous and practical way to its defenders in the World War, who need the supporting arm of the Government. Our very immediate concern is for the crippled soldiers and those deeply needing the helping hand of Government. Conscious of the generous intent of Congress, and the public concern for the crippled and dependent, I invited the services of a volunteer committee to inquire into the administration of the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, the Federal Board for Vocational Training and other agencies of government in caring for the ex-soldiers, sailors, and marines of the World War. This committee promptly reported the chief difficulty to be the imperfect organization of government effort, the same lack of co-ordination which hinders Government efficiency in many undertakings, less noticed because the need for prompt service is less appealing.
This committee has recommended, and I convey the recommendations to you with cordial approval, that all Government agencies looking to the welfare of the ex-service men should be placed under one directing head, so that the welfare of these disabled saviors of our civilization and freedom may have the most efficient direction. It may be well to make such an official the Director General of Service to War Veterans, and place under his direction all hospitalization, vocational training, war insurance, rehabilitation, and all pensions.
The immediate extension and utilization of the government's hospital facilities in Army and Navy will bring relief to the acute conditions most complained of, and the hospital building program may be worked out to meet the needs likely to be urgent at the time of possible completion.
The whole program requires the most thoughtful attention of Congress, for we are embarking on the performance of a sacred obligation which involves the expenditure of billions in the half century before us. Congress must perfect the policy of generous gratitude, and conscientious administration must stamp out abuses in the very beginning. We must strengthen rather than weaken the moral fiber of the beneficiaries, and humanize all efforts so that rehabilitation shall be attended by respiritualization.
During the recent political canvass the proposal was made that a department of public welfare should be created. It was indorsed and commended so strongly that I venture to call it to your attention and to suggest favorable legislative consideration.
Government's obligation affirmatively to encourage development of the highest and most efficient type of citizenship is modernly accepted, almost universally. Government rests upon the body of citizenship; it can not maintain itself on a level that keeps it out of touch and understanding with the community it serves. Enlightened governments everywhere recognize this and are giving their recognition effect in policies and programs. Certainly no government is more desirous than our own to reflect the human attitude, the purpose of making better citizens—physically, intellectually, spiritually. To this end I am convinced that such a department in the government would be of real value. It could be made to crystallize much of rather vague generalization about social justice into solid accomplishment. Events of recent years have profoundly impressed thinking people with the need to recognize new social forces and evolutions, to equip our citizens for dealing rightly with problems of life and social order.
In the realms of education, public health, sanitation, conditions of workers in industry, child welfare, proper amusement and recreation, the elimination of social vice, and many other subjects, the government has already undertaken a considerable range of activities. I assume the maternity bill, already strongly approved, will be enacted promptly, thus adding to our manifestation of human interest. But these undertakings have been scattered through many departments and bureaus without coordination and with much overlapping of functions which fritters energies and magnifies the cost. Many subjects of the greatest importance are handled by bureaus within government departments which logically have no apparent relation to them. Other subjects which might well have the earnest consideration of federal authority have been neglected or inadequately provided for. To bring these various activities together in a single department, where the whole field could be surveyed, and where their interrelationships could be properly appraised, would make for increased effectiveness, economy, and intelligence of direction. In creating such a department it should be made plain that there is no purpose to invade fields which the states have occupied, in respect of education, for example, control and administration have rested with the states, yet the federal government has always aided them. National appropriations in aid of educational purposes the last fiscal year were no less than $65,000,000. There need be no fear of undue centralization or of creating a federal bureaucracy to dominate affairs better to be left in state control. We must, of course, avoid overlapping the activities by the several states, and we must ever resist the growing demand on the federal Treasury for the performance of service for which the state is obligated to its citizenship.
Somewhat related to the foregoing human problems is the race question. Congress ought to wipe the stain of barbaric lynching from the banners of a free and orderly, representative democracy. We face the fact that many millions of people of African descent are numbered among our population, and that in a number of states they constitute a very large proportion of the total population. It is unnecessary to recount the difficulties incident to this condition, nor to emphasize the fact that it is a condition which can not be removed. There has been suggestion, however, that some of its difficulties might be ameliorated by a humane and enlightened consideration of it, a study of its many aspects, and an effort to formulate, if not a policy, at least a national attitude of mind calculated to bring about the most satisfactory possible adjustment of relations between the races, and of each race to the national life. One proposal is the creation of a commission embracing representatives of both races, to study and report on the entire subject. The proposal has real merit. I am convinced that in mutual tolerance, understanding, charity, recognition of the interdependence of the races, and the maintenance of the rights of citizenship lies the road to righteous adjustment.
It is needless to call your attention to the unfinished business inherited from the preceding Congress. The appropriation bills for army and navy will have your early consideration.
Neither branch of the government can be unmindful of the call for reduced expenditure for these departments of our national defense. The government is in accord with the wish to eliminate the burdens of heavy armament. The United States ever will be in harmony with such a movement toward the higher attainments of peace. But we shall not entirely discard our agencies for defense until there is removed the need to defend. We are ready to cooperate with other nations to approximate disarmament, but merest prudence forbids that we disarm alone.
The naval program which had its beginning in what seemed the highest assurances of peace can carry no threat after the latest proof of our national unselfishness. The reasonable limitation of personnel may be combined with economies of administration to lift the burdens of excessive outlay. The War Department is reducing the personnel of the Army from the maximum provided by law in June, 1920, to the minimum directed by Congress in a subsequent enactment. When further reduction is compatible with national security, it may well have the sanction of Congress, so that a system of voluntary military training may offer to our young manhood the advantages of physical development, discipline, and commitment to service, and constitute the Army reserve in return for the training.
Nearly two and a half years ago the World War came to an end, and yet we find ourselves today in the technical state of war, though actually at peace, while Europe is at technical peace, far from tranquility and little progressed toward the hoped-for restoration. It ill becomes us to express impatience that the European belligerents are not yet in full agreement, when we ourselves have been unable to bring constituted authority into accord in our own relations to the formally proclaimed peace. Little avails in reciting the causes of delay in Europe or our own failure to agree. But there is no longer excuse for uncertainties respecting some phases of our foreign relationship. In the existing League of Nations, world-governing with its superpowers, this republic will have no part. There can be no misinterpretation, and there will be no betrayal of the deliberate expression of the American people in the recent election; and, settled in our decision for ourselves, it is only fair to say to the world in general, and to our associates in war in particular, that the League covenant can have no sanction by us.
The aim to associate nations to prevent war, preserve peace, and promote civilization our people most cordially applauded. We yearned for this new instrument of justice, but we can have no part in a committal to an agency of force in unknown contingencies; we can recognize no super-authority.
Manifestly the highest purpose of the League of Nations was defeated in linking it with the treaty of peace and making it the enforcing agency of the victors of the war. International association for permanent peace must be conceived solely as an instrumentality of justice, unassociated with the passions of yesterday, and not so constituted as to attempt the dual functions of a political instrument of the conquerors and of an agency of peace. There can be no prosperity for the fundamental purposes sought to be achieved by any such association so long as it is an organ of any particular treaty, or committed to the attainment of the special aims of any nation or group of nations.
The American aspiration, indeed, the world aspiration, was an association of nations, based upon the application of justice and right, binding us in conference and cooperation for the prevention of war and pointing the way to a higher civilization and international fraternity in which all the world might share. In rejecting the League covenant and uttering that rejection to our own people, and to the world, we make no surrender of our hope and aim for an association to promote peace in which we would most heartily join. We wish it to be conceived in peace and dedicated to peace, and will relinquish no effort to bring the nations of the world into such fellowship, not in the surrender of national sovereignty but rejoicing in a nobler exercise of it in the advancement of human activities, amid the compensations of peaceful achievement.
In the national referendum to which I have adverted we pledged our efforts toward such association, and the pledge will be faithfully kept. In the plight of policy and performance, we told the American people we meant to seek an early establishment of peace. The United States alone among the Allied and associated powers continues in a technical state of war against the Central Powers of Europe. This anomalous condition ought not to be permitted to continue. To establish the state of technical peace without further delay, I should approve a declaratory resolution by Congress to that effect, with the qualifications essential to protect all our rights. Such action would be the simplest keeping of faith with ourselves, and could in no sense be construed as a desertion of those with whom we shared our sacrifices in war, for these Powers are already at peace. Such a resolution should undertake to do no more than thus to declare the state of peace, which all America craves. It must add no difficulty in effecting, with just reparations, the restoration for which all Europe yearns, and upon which the world's recovery must be founded. Neither former enemy nor ally can mistake America's position, because our attitude as to responsibility for the war and the necessity for just reparations already has had formal and very earnest expression.
It would be unwise to undertake to make a statement of future policy with respect to European affairs in such a declaration of a state of peace. In correcting the failure of the Executive, in negotiating the most important treaty in the history of the Nation, to recognize the constitutional powers of the Senate we would go to the other extreme, equally objectionable, if Congress or the Senate should assume the function of the executive. Our highest duty is the preservation of the constituted powers of each, and the promotion of the spirit of cooperation so essential to our common welfare.
It would be idle to declare for separate treaties of peace with the Central Powers on the assumption that these alone would be adequate, because the situation is so involved that our peace engagements can not ignore the Old World relationship and the settlements already effected, nor is it desirable to do so in preserving our own rights and contracting our future relationships. The wiser course would seem to be the acceptance of the confirmation of our rights and interests as already provided and to engage under the existing treaty, assuming of course, that this can be satisfactorily accomplished by such explicit reservations and modifications as will secure our absolute freedom from inadvisable commitments and safeguard all our essential interests.
Neither Congress nor the people needs my assurance that a request to negotiate needed treaties of peace would be as superfluous and unnecessary as it is technically ineffective, and I know in my own heart there is none who would wish to embarrass the Executive in the performance of his duty when we are all so eager to turn disappointment and delay into gratifying accomplishment.
Problems relating to our foreign relations bear upon the present and the future, and are of such a nature that the all important future must be deliberately considered, with greater concern than mere immediate relief from unhappy conditions. We have witnessed, yea, we have participated in the supremely tragic episode of war, but our deeper concern is in the continuing life of nations and the development of civilization. We must not allow our vision to be impaired by the conflict among ourselves. The weariness at home and the disappointment to the world have been compensated in the proof that this republic will surrender none of the heritage of nationality, but our rights in international relationship have to be asserted; they require establishment in compacts of amity; our part in readjustment and restoration can not be ignored, and must be defined.
With the supergoverning league definitely rejected and with the world so informed, and with the status of peace proclaimed at home, we may proceed to negotiate the-covenanted relationship so essential to the recognition of all the rights everywhere of our own nation and play our full part in joining the peoples of the world in the pursuits of peace once more. Our obligations in effecting European tranquility, because of war's involvements, are not less impelling than our part in the war itself. This restoration must be wrought before the human procession can go onward again. We can be helpful because we are moved by no hatreds and harbor no fears. Helpfulness does not mean entanglement, and participation in economic adjustments does not mean sponsorship for treaty commitments which do not concern us, and in which we will have no part.
In an all-impelling wish to do the most and best for our own republic and maintain its high place among nations and at the same time make, the fullest offering of justice to them, I shall invite in the most practical way the advice of the Senate, after acquainting it with all the conditions to be met and obligations to be discharged, along with our own rights to be safeguarded. Prudence in making the program and confident cooperation in making it effective can not lead us far astray. We can render no effective service to humanity until we prove anew our own capacity for cooperation in the coordination of powers contemplated in the Constitution, and no covenants which ignore our associations in the war can be made for the future. More, no helpful society of nations can be founded on justice and committed to peace until the covenants reestablishing peace are sealed by the nations which were at war. To Such accomplishment—to the complete reestablishment of peace and its contracted relationships, to the realization of our aspirations for nations associated for world helpfulness without world government, for world stability on which humanity's hope are founded, we shall address ourselves, fully mindful of the high privilege and the paramount duty of the United States in this critical period of the world.
Warren G. Harding, Address to a Joint Session of Congress on Urgent National Problems Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/329271