Herbert Hoover photo

Address in Springfield, Illinois

November 04, 1932

My friends:

No man can come to Springfield without a long look backward in our history. No man can visit this national shrine without reflecting once more on its significance in the life of our Republic. No man can live in Washington without constant reminder of the great struggle that determined our country's destiny. And no man in my position can fail to gain inspiration and courage from the courage, the high intelligence, the unswerving fidelity with which Abraham Lincoln met the overwhelming difficulties that threatened the very existence of our Union. I thank you for the privilege of renewing contact with that shrine.

At Des Moines a month ago I made an address largely directed to agriculture. I elaborated some 12 points which I can summarize again, with the progress made in respect to them since that time, and I can now add the apparent reactions upon the Democratic candidate in respect to that statement.

The first of the subjects I discussed at that time was the tariff in its relation to American agriculture. Since that speech, the Democratic candidate has made further statements as to which he can only confuse the public mind and from which I do not believe American agriculture will secure much conviction. It is, of course, difficult for the Democratic Party to maintain one theory on the tariff in the East and another in the West. But of one thing you can be sure, and that is that the party which placed the majority of farm products on the free list in the tariff bill which they imposed on the country in 1913; the party which voted against the emergency farm tariff in 1921; the party of the Democratic President who vetoed it; the party of the Democratic minority in the succeeding House which voted against the revival of the emergency tariff, although it was forced through by a Republican majority and a Republican President; the party which voted against the increase in the agricultural tariffs in the Republican tariff bill of 1922, and the party which voted against the increase in the farm tariffs in the Hawley Smoot tariff bill of 1930; the party whose platform enunciated the principle of competitive tariff for revenue, and the candidate who unceasingly has reaffirmed that platform and who denounces the Hawley Smoot tariff in unmeasured terms, notwithstanding that 66 percent of the dutiable goods under that act are farm products, and who has termed it frequently a ghastly jest, are scarcely the party and the candidate upon whom the Republican farmers of Illinois should depend for their protection. Certainly whatever they may now say in words in the West, they depend upon their historical low tariff policy to carry conviction in the East.

Moreover, I have not yet noticed that the Democratic candidate has abandoned his notion of what he calls "negotiated tariffs" with other governments. I have reexamined the protests which are always lodged by other nations every time we pass a protective tariff bill, and in fact all nations lodge similar protests when one of them passes a tariff bill. I find that all but a few of those protests lay their major emphasis on the increase in our farm tariff. In other words, there is no negotiation that can be carried through that will not be done at the sacrifice of the American farmer.

In speaking at Des Moines I gave some figures at which farm commodities could be sold in the United States from foreign countries, even in these days of distressing and even heartbreaking prices, if the tariff were reduced to a competitive basis for revenue. I can add some items that are especially applicable to the State of Illinois. Your soybean oil is an important new product with you. This oil now sells in the Atlantic coast markets for about $3.50 per 100 pounds. It could be imported for far less except for the tariff. It was formerly on the Democratic free list, and your entire industry would be destroyed by lowering the tariff to a competitive basis with the labor of China which is your chief competitive country. Your butter, which sells in New York at 22 cents, could be sold from New Zealand at this moment for 16 were it not for the tariff. And, as a matter of fact, your wheat, distressing as the price is, is selling in Minneapolis today at 12 cents above the Canadian price for similar grades.

In discussing the tariff at Des Moines I pointed out that at that moment there were about 2 million cattle in the northern States of Mexico seeking a market, and stated that: "The price is about $2ð per 100 pounds on the south bank of the Rio Grande and $40 on the north bank, and only the tariff wall between them."

This fact has greatly worried our Democratic orators, and they have concluded that these cattle must be bony, skinny, and seventh-class cattle. Although that is not true, I am quite prepared to transfer this comparison to the highest grade cattle in the world on the northern border where the difference is even more than the $2 margin between the north side and the south side of the Mexican border. I am further prepared to transfer this comparison to the Argentine, where the highest grade cattle that could come into New York in the form of meat for $7 per 100 pounds as against the present price of your meat at $12 per 100 pounds if it were not for the tariff. And I may say to the workmen of Illinois that it is because of the prices that you receive that men are employed in New York making goods for your consumption.

And I wish to call your attention to a further factor that has come to a head during the last few weeks, more particularly since I spoke at Des Moines, and that is the effect of the depreciation of foreign currencies on the ability of our competitors in agricultural products to ship into our markets. When their currencies depreciated, their prices and wages automatically decreased in comparison with ours, and this enables them to penetrate our tariff wall. At this moment foreign farm products, such as butter, pork products, grass for rugs, cattle, and competitive oils, have begun to flow over our borders in competition with our American farmers, and have contributed to the depreciation of the present prices. Particularly is this so from Canada, New Zealand, and the Orient, and from certain European countries. Fortunately, the Republican Party had secured, 2 years ago, the establishment of authority in the Tariff Commission by which the tariffs could we reexamined and readjusted in just such events. I have lately given instructions to the Commission to reexamine certain of the agricultural tariffs with view of presenting to me the actual facts of the difference in cost of production at home and abroad, and certainly if the facts are developed as they appear, I shall promptly act in relief of the American farmer. One of the planks of the Democratic platform, one of the things that has been consistently backed by the Democratic candidate, and one of the things passed by the Democratic Congress was to destroy this authority. And I ask you what emergency relief you could therefore expect from them.

The second point which I took up at Des Moines was the activities of the Farm Board. I stated that the original fundamental purpose of the Board was to encourage cooperative marketing. That they have done to a remarkable degree. Hundreds of cooperative associations would have gone bankrupt in this depression except for the ability of the Farm Board to lend to them the necessary money to carry them during the time of the depression. Today over 2 million of farm families throughout the United States, members of cooperatives, are receiving benefits solely because of the consummation of this undertaking by the Republican Party. Nowhere can I find that the Democratic candidate has agreed to continue this support of cooperative marketing through the Farm Board.

The Democratic candidate does denounce the emergency purchases of farm products during the panic. The files of the Farm Board will show the insistent demand of farm organizations, both Democratic and Republican Senators and Congressmen, Governors, bankers, and grain merchants for that emergency action to be taken. Some of the gentlemen who made these demands are the loudest critics of the Farm Board in this campaign. I have stated that as valuable as the operation was, I am convinced, and I believe the farmers are convinced, that its aftermath warrants the revision of the act to eliminate this section.

The third subject on which I spoke at Des Moines was the problem of better land use. The Republican platform contains a plank which constitutes the first declaration upon this subject. The Democratic candidate is now for it, but in a recent letter from him to Mr. Shearon, in New York, 1 freely circulated as a campaign document amongst the unemployed in the United States, he promises to put every one of the 10 million unemployed in the United States to work for the Government--a thing impossible to do without ruining every farmer in the United States with taxes and other disabilities. But he also enumerates the further reclamation of land amongst the projects of which he proposes to avail himself. The inevitable consequence would be to further expand agricultural production in the United States, and thereby further embarrass the American farmers with increasing surpluses and decreasing prices.

1 See Item 347, page 588.

The fourth subject I discussed at Des Moines was waterways, on which the Democratic candidate has carefully refrained from any but vague references.

The fifth point which I discussed in that address was the loans made to help farmers during the drought and to rehabilitate their production where there were no credit facilities. I stated that I had seen to it that they would not be unduly pressed in the present situation for the repayment of these amounts, and I can report now that measures have been set up which have received the approval of these distressed people. The Democratic candidate has not expressed himself on the continuation of that policy.

The sixth matter which I discussed was the question of taxes upon land property and the injustice of the proportionate burden which the farmer is now bearing. The Democratic candidate has referred to this subject on a number of occasions. He offered to use his influence in solution of it. I stated at Des Moines that I proposed to call a conference of the tax officials immediately after the election and to review the whole relation of our taxes between the Federal, State, and local governments, and to find a basis for each that would give an opportunity to the States to give relief to the farmer.

The seventh point which I discussed at Des Moines was the necessity of maintaining a flow of short-term credit to the farmer to enable him to make short-term loans for planting, harvesting, and feeding of livestock and other productive necessities. I pointed out that much was being accomplished indirectly through credit expansion in various directions by the Government agencies, and I am now able to report that the 10 new agricultural credit institutions which can command over $300 million of credit are actually in operation in all parts of the country, and the sound demand of no farmer need go unsatisfied. There has been no expression from my opponent as to his views upon that question.

The eighth subject which I discussed was the authorization to the Reconstruction Corporation to make credit available for the movement of farm commodities to the market in normal fashion, and to make credits available for the sale of farm products to countries abroad not otherwise able to produce such commodities. Since that date the farmers of the Northwest States have asked for a loan with which to sell 15 million bushels of wheat to China, and I believe that, despite technical difficulties which have been raised before the Reconstruction Corporation, we shall find solution and secure relief to those farmers with consequent aid to the whole wheat situation. That is a practical application of what I stated at Des Moines as among the powers we had established for the Reconstruction Corporation. The Democratic candidate has not expressed himself upon this policy.

The ninth subject I discussed at Des Moines was the mortgage situation and the actions which we have already taken in provision of additional capital to the Federal land banks and the steps we have taken to secure coordination of private agencies to relax pressure upon mortgages. I further stated that I would propose to Congress at the next session a further reorganization of the Federal land banks to give them the resources and liberty of action to expand in the positive refinancing of the farm mortgages where it is necessary in order to give men who want a chance to fight for their homes the opportunity to do it. Since then we have further coordinated private loaning agencies and have thereby greatly relaxed the pressures from these agencies upon the farmers. The Democratic candidate in an indefinite way, has expressed his agreement to my proposal to further expand the land banks, but he has made proposals affecting private mortgages which, if he is to carry them beyond voluntary action already in course, he will require an amendment to the Constitution and will be required to adopt my proposal of reorganized land banks in full in order to do the job.

The tenth subject which I discussed at Des Moines was the important element of world stability in the recovery and expansion of our agricultural markets. I stated the necessity of the rebuilding of the credit structure of foreign countries, broken down by the present situation which had forced them off the gold standard and compelled them to restrict their imports of commodities; that we were participating in building up the World Economic Conference for the accomplishment of this purpose. I stated that I would send a representative of agriculture as a member of the American delegation to that Conference. We have made steady progress in the preparatory work for that Conference, and it will be held later in the year. The Democratic candidate has not expressed himself in support of that proposal.

The eleventh subject I discussed at Des Moines was the use of the war debts to assist in the expansion of agricultural markets; I commented on the proposal of the Democratic candidate to lower our tariffs in order that by profits gained from the flood of goods into the United States, these debts would be more easily paid by the foreigner, but the result would be to place the burden of these debts upon our workers by putting them out of employment and on our farmers by forcing their products to rot on their farms. There has been no withdrawal of this proposal by the Democratic candidate.

I stated that I was prepared to recommend that any annual payment of foreign debts be used for the specific purpose of securing expansion of American farm markets, which is the reversal of our opponent's proposal. The restoration of our proportion of European markets before Russia and other countries began their displacements would alone increase the market for our wheat by 50 million bushels and vastly increase our pork product exports. This will be made a real action.

The twelfth subject I discussed at Des Moines was the advancement of agricultural prices. I stated that the first measure of relief was to hold to our protective tariffs on farm products; that we will maintain. The next move in the battle for improved prices was to stop general deflation. There are evidences in nearly every direction that that has been stopped and that values are recovering. The third step is to expand the foreign market. The project I have proposed will work in that direction. The next step is to expand our domestic markets by restoration of employment, for 92 percent of American farm products are sold in America to American consumers. Every man taken from the ranks of the unemployed and put back to his job is, with his family, an increased consumer. This increase takes place by his ability to buy the more refined products of agriculture, such as animal products, which in turn require a larger consumption of grain. And I can report to you on authority of two different Government agencies that, since the adjournment of the Democratic House of Representatives, the measures which we have instituted for recovery of the country have resulted in a million men being restored to their jobs. They have begun to return at the rate of 500,000 a month, and it will soon begin to reflect in your markets.

I have the most earnest desire to rebuild agriculture. The country fully realizes that the purchasing power of the farmer must be restored to gain national prosperity. I frankly stated at Des Moines that I had come to the farmers with no economic patent medicine especially compounded for them, and that I refused to offer counterfeit currency or false ideas. I shall continue to search for further practical measures.

The Democratic candidate has developed one of the greatest mysteries of this whole campaign in his proposal for relief to agriculture. He has not been willing to state the method by which he proposes to secure the advance of agricultural prices. He has stated with great care six methods by which he can escape from any demand that he make good on his mysterious proposal.

And he could add two other doors of escape not mentioned--first, that any plan should be constitutional; and, second, that it should not violate the laws of practically every country in the world against the import of commodities produced as the result of subsidies. I closed the door to the New Zealand butter under our own law in order to protect the farmers of the United States on one occasion during this present depression because they were subsidizing production.

It seems to me cruel to hold out hope to a suffering people by vague plans, the most specific parts of which are the ways of escape from putting it into action. The only thing we really know of the plan is that he is unwilling during all these many weeks to submit it to debate. Now, I leave these questions of definite problems before you.

I would like to give to you an important analogy with the whole situation we are in.

It was from Springfield, in the heart of the western prairies, that Lincoln was called to the leadership of the Nation at the beginning of a crisis that threatened our destruction. It was an unprecedented situation of unprecedented problems. A multitude of conflicting counsels beat in on Washington. An influential body of public opinion advocated a do-nothing policy. Even the commander in chief of the national armies, on the day before Lincoln's inauguration, wrote in this spirit: "Say to the seceded States," he wrote, "wayward sisters, depart in peace." The most distinguished statesman of the time, William H. Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State, advised the President to take the country into a foreign war, in the hope that this might rally the separating States to the defense of the Union. As the long conflict wore on, discouraged patriots urged and urged again a negotiated settlement.

Through all this tumult of discordant opinions, under the terrible strain of discouragement and apparent failure, Lincoln kept his head. He thought straight: "The Union must be preserved." He never was diverted from his goal. He never faltered. And in the end the policies he had adopted, the forces he had set in motion, carried the country through. The Union was saved. His record, his example, are a priceless heritage to the Nation. They are a constant incentive to every man who occupies a position of leadership in difficult times. They are a living guide to every man who in the Presidential office lives hourly in his invisible presence.

We are assembled here today in the midst of a gigantic economic conflict. For the last 3 years we have been beset with forces that threatened our economic structure as truly as the forces unleashed in the War Between the States threatened the structure of the Republic. On other occasions I have compared our present situation to a war on a hundred fronts. I have given some account of these various engagements, and of the general strategy of our campaign.

Here at Springfield, with its historic associations, it is appropriate to review briefly the events of that earlier struggle and to consider some of the similarities to the situation that we have met in the last 3 years. We must not press analogies too far. But I believe you will agree with me as we examine the record that certain phases of the conflict between the States will help to better understand our recent events.

And first I would call your attention to the suddenness and unexpectedness with which the blow fell that transformed a peaceful people into a people engaged in a desperate war. As we look back now, it seems perfectly clear that the struggle had been in the making for many years. In the light of history, it seems to have been an inevitable conflict between two irreconcilable theories of government. But even as the day of armed conflict approached, the people were busy with the matters of everyday life. If you search the newspaper and magazine files of the time, you will be amazed at the tranquillity shown, in view of what we now know was then impending.

As you all remember, the storm broke in the weeks immediately before Lincoln's inauguration. The events that followed I need sketch only in the broadest outlines. The first 2 years were a period of almost unrelieved gloom for the Union forces. One disaster followed another and the year 1862 ended with Burnside's defeat at Fredericksburg. The year 1863 opened as gloomily with the disaster to Hooker at Chancellorsville. But in July of 1863 the Union retreat was definitely stopped by Meade at Gettysburg and Grant at Vicksburg- Still, the victory was far from won. The draft riots in New York that summer showed how even the North was feeling the strain. The gigantic struggle continued into the 4th year with no decisive outcome in sight. Grant, intrusted with the chief command of the Union forces in March 1864, entered upon the frightful "wilderness campaign," which culminated in the appalling losses at Cold Harbor, June 1 to 3.

The Presidential campaign was coming on. A convention of the disaffected met at Cleveland on May 31 and nominated General John C. Fremont for President. The Republican convention met at Baltimore June 7--only 4 days after Cold Harbor.

We know now, what could not be known at the time, that the real victory had been won at Gettysburg; that the forces against the Union, gallant as they were, and actuated by the deepest of convictions, had been overcome in the long struggle of the preceding years. Yet this fundamental fact was still obscured by the smoke of battle. The North was still dismayed, almost stunned by the violence of the blows it had received. The casualties of the "wilderness" hung like a pall over the land. Would it be possible, men asked, for the Nation to survive ? Was it worthwhile fighting on ?

Lincoln was renominated by the Republican Party, but the country was profoundly disheartened. It felt it had made enormous sacrifices and had made them vainly. True, Grant had now advanced on Richmond and had invested the capital of the Confederacy. But early in July, the dashing Jubal Early had appeared in front of Washington, and it looked for a tense moment as if the National Capital itself might fall. A few days later a Federal attempt to break through the defense of Richmond failed disastrously.

Bear in mind what I said a moment ago, that the retreat of the Union had been for months definitely stopped and that the advance was already in progress. But the strain had been so long and so heavy that the Nation could not realize what had happened. The wave of discouragement that swept over the country in the summer of 1864 was so extreme that on August 23, Lincoln prepared his famous secret memorandum: "This morning," he wrote, "as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this administration will not be reelected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the President. elect as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration, as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterwards."

Six days later the Democratic National Convention met at Chicago and declared in its platform "as the sense of the American people, that after 4 years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war . . . justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities." On that platform, with its appeal to discouragement, discontent, and suffering, the Democratic Convention nominated General George B. McClellan of New York for President.

But events marched rapidly. The grand strategy of the general advance, for which the foundation had been laid in the previous 12 months, began to bear fruit. After the gloomy summer of 1864 success attended the Union arms on every front. Sherman captured Atlanta on September 2 and began his march to the sea. Sheridan routed Early at Cedar Creek in October. The President was reelected in November. Thomas destroyed Hood at Nashville in December, and the following April came Appomattox Court House and the end of the war.

The transformation from apparent stalemate to overwhelming victory may have seemed amazing to many people at that time. But if it seemed amazing, it was only because people did not understand how well the foundation had been laid in the dark days that preceded and how effectively the strategy had been planned.

I believe this brief outline of the progress of events in a crisis that confronted a previous generation may help us to a juster appreciation of what has happened in the years just past and what is happening today.

In 1860, as in 1929, the country was unexpectedly faced with a great calamity. Then, as now, the disruptive forces gathered strength and for a time their progress seemed irresistible. Then, as now, the resources of the Nation were mobilized and organized in a campaign that finally ended the initial retreat. Then, as now, advances began here and there, so coordinated as to lead to the final triumph. But then, as now, the Nation had undergone such a strain, it was reeling under so many blows that even after the advance had begun many failed to realize what had happened.

Today our opponents are declaring in their platform, in words strangely reminiscent of those used by their predecessors in Chicago 68 years ago, that the struggle of this administration against the depression has been a failure and that "the only hope of improving present conditions"--I quote from the present Democratic platform-"lies in a drastic change in economic governmental policies." So in 1864 the Democrats declared that "after 4 years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war"--again I am quoting from their platform--"that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities." So again today, as in 1864, in the midst of a great war, they call for a change of leadership and of policies at Washington.

In spite of the hardships, privations, and other difficulties of the time, the Nation in 1864 refused to be swerved from a course that had turned the retreat into an advance. It supported the policies whose value had been tested under the fiery strain of the struggle. By its election mandate it directed those to whom it had intrusted leadership to go forward with the campaign strategy whose results already were in evidence. It declined emphatically to turn aside to untried policies and experimental leadership.

The same alternatives are before the country today that lay before it in that momentous campaign of nearly three-quarters of a century ago. The choice that the American people made in 1864 was made on November 8. The choice they are called to make in 1932 will be made on November 8 likewise. My fellow citizens, can we doubt what that choice will be ?

Men and women--and I include women because they bore then as they do now a large part of the burdens of that struggle--the support of that strategy and that leadership which preserved the Union came from the constancy of the Republican Party in its refusal to be diverted from the leadership which it had given at that time and the leadership which it has given in the last 4 years to the solution of a great national crisis.

The turn in the tide of the Civil War was made at Gettysburg. The turn in the tide in this crisis was made in the last winter, and just as after Gettysburg long months of continual battle were required to bring about the saving of the Union, in the same manner we must continue to fight today to recover our prosperity and to preserve the social and political principles for which Abraham Lincoln stood.

Note: The President spoke at 3:30 p.m. to an audience of 7,500 people assembled in the Springfield Arsenal. The Columbia Broadcasting System and the National Broadcasting Company radio networks carried the address.

Herbert Hoover, Address in Springfield, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/207479

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives